Friday, May 30, 2008

It's always been in the family

This morning's City Paper is filling in the back story regarding the anticipated departure of a Nashville Planning Department employee. They take care to note the associations that really are, and have been for quite some time, a part of every day political life in Nashville. The convoluted associations aren't surprising to anyone who has been around a while. What is downright surprising and embarassing is that anyone who has been elected to the Council is unaware of how deep and wide some of these relationships are and actually says so.

As one Council member said while leaving yesterday’s surprising meeting, “I had no idea how incestuous this whole process was.”
Where has s/he been all this time? The paper gives us this juicy and illuminating quote but doesn't tell us which Council member was so terribly clueless. They are doing them a BIG favor in not revealing their identity. I hope they appreciate it.

Unless we want the Council to take up the saying of former Senator Wilder and get a pass just because "Metro is Metro" we need our media outlets to continue to make those connections and fill out the story if we're ever going to reign in these conflicts of interest. We need voters to pay attention at election time to these conflicts of interests. Conflicts of interest that are not confined to Metro but are very well demonstrated by the Tennessee House Democrats--the majors, if you will, to the Metro farm team.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Considering the children

Rex in the City makes mention of the obvious fact that BOE Candidate for the 1st District Sharon Gentry is pregnant and warns chauvinists about making the former vice-mayor's wife's pregnancy an issue during her campaign.

Gentry loyalists say this and a fear of Howard Gentry’s ties to organizations like the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce and associated cliques has manifested itself in an unfair line of attack against Sharon Gentry concerning her pregnancy — namely that public office would be taking on too much to truly serve.
I met Mrs. Gentry week before last while attending the meeting for former board members and candidates regarding hiring a new superintendent of schools. She was obviously very pregnant and told us she was due before the election. To her credit she was very active in the discussion and would clearly make a better BOE member than the man she's running to replace, George Thompson. No 'pregnancy brain' was in evidence then.

However, the fact is she will be a new mom. It's wise to consider that she will be terribly busy those first few months, probably sleep deprived and likely needing a bit of time to physically recover. All of that during a time when she'll be gearing up for a new job and the district will be hiring a new superintendent and those anti SSA folks will be demanding changes, throw in a teacher hearing and it's going to be tough fall for all of the BOE members.

Before you start calling me a woman hater--I remember when my own councilman, Erik Cole, was running four years ago. His wife was obviously pregnant with their first child and I did ask if he was going to be able to handle this new job and being a new parent. He assured me that had a game plan in place.

Mayoral candidate David Briley's own child care issues came into play when he missed an important "English First" vote in the council. There was miscommunication about who was to pick up and care for his son and he needed to excuse himself to tend to that important task. It was right to ask if this could be repeated if he became mayor.

We now live in a world where having a wife available to handle the children while the candidate runs for office isn't normal anymore. We have moms running for office. We have dads who are expected to continue sharing child care duties. I don't think it's out of line to ask if the more important duties of caring for the children will interfere with the secondary, to that family, duties of the political position. It's part of the whole package the candidate brings to the job. A voter would be short-sighted to not consider it all. Likely the voters of the 1st district will decide that a bit of a slow start will be more than made up for during the entire four years.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Remembering their families

When my daughter visited the Vietnam War Memorial what struck this young woman most strongly was the number of names with 'Jr' and 'III' behind them. She took dozens of photos of those. This is a snip from just one. Those designations made it absolutely clear that these men had left families behind when they got their orders. That those families were anxious and praying for their safety while they were gone. Those families' worst fears were realized when the military representative rang that bell or that telegram was delivered. There would be no joyous welcome home and relief and reentry into normal life. Life for those families was forever changed.

Freedom certainly isn't free. There is no way to adequately thank these families for their sacrifice except to ensure that they know we remember and appreciate the tremendous loss they incurred and we appreciate the freedom we still have.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Time to clean House

The City Paper makes the following editorial comment today:

[Former Tn Rep. Rob] Briley’s problems while not directly tied to his status as a legislator appeared to be more of the same — lawmakers who skirted or ran afoul of the law. Despite the fact these lawmakers have been almost exclusively Democrats since Tennessee Waltz, none of the party’s leaders in the state have stepped forward to call for civility and better behavior.
They could do an entire edition on the shenanigans pulled by the Democrat controlled House and folks could confuse it with an edition of The Onion. The legislature has gone home now and they'll be asking for your votes. You should seriously consider whether you want another Democrat majority in that legislative body. You'll get more of the same if it happens. Republicans aren't perfect to be sure but goodness, how can anyone look at what's gone on in the House and say "Yeah, let's have more of that." Let's enable more drunks, thieves, adulterers, and swindlers of various flavors to run this ship of state. It was the Democrat party that enabled and excused it all and then let them fuss at US for daring to question the behavior.

This summer spend more time examining the candidates for the Tennessee legislature than you do your latest beach novel. Instead of buying that summer read, send that $20 to a candidate that will turn things around. Call a candidate and ask them how you can help. Do you need to host a meet and greet? Man the phones? Stuff envelopes? Man a polling station? How much is your freedom and treasure worth to you? How badly do you want positive changes in this state? Go find a political broom and let's start cleaning out the House.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Good enough for government work

The DOE's characterization of private school (Category IV diplomas) as worthless made it national this afternoon as it moved from our own TennConserVOLiance writers to Warner Todd Houston at StopTheACLU and then on to Rush Limbaugh's daily 'stack of stuff' and on to Neal Boortz and the day's not over yet.

You've already read some of Rob Shearer's stuff here, let's move on to fellow ConSerVOLiance blogger Blue Collar Muse's comments:

In essence, it [ERIC Digest] says the digest reports home school students outperform government school students by significant margins. They do so throughout their academic careers. They do so measured any way you choose, including standardized tests. They do so consistently as reported in studies covering a variety of samples, locations and times. But ERIC concludes home schools are not superior to government schools. It only demonstrates ” … home schooling [provides] a very successful academic environment.” I only attended government schools but even I can read between those lines and discern the truth.

Let's move on to Houston's comments:
It’s true. The State of Tennessee has officially declared that from this point forward it will accept only less educated student applicants for state, county and city jobs in the Volunteer State. Why would the kindly folks in Nashville make such a stupid rule? Well, it’s all about control, you see. The state controls the less educated kids and they don’t control the ones that show higher academic aptitude. It really is just that simple.
He quotes from Rob Shearer's work referenced here yesterday and then goes on to note:
It is also interesting that the 2005 stats are the only such data available. It seems the ACT organization stopped delineating the differences between the home-schooled and the government indoctrinated students. One has to wonder if ACT has realized that governments all across the country are gearing up to destroy home-schools and religious schools and they didn’t want to help the home-schoolers out by showing the too obvious excellence that home-schoolers achieve compared to their less educated government indoctrinated contemporaries.
So, after seeing these interesting statistics, one has to wonder why the State of Tennessee would rather accept the least educated kids of the State to become policemen, firemen and daycare workers? Does Tennessee really want to promote the more stupid above its best and brightest?

From El Rushbo who reads at length from Houston's quoting of Rob Shearer comments:
Look, why are we so concerned? Why are we so surprised? This is exactly what the whole purpose of a government-run education system is all about: you dumb 'em down! You teach 'em certain things, you don't teach 'em other things, and then you graduate them and bring them into state government, city government, federal government, what have you. This is why they're not going to give it up, and this is why they don't care to improve it. Mr. Warner Todd Huston here is correct in his assessment that the State of Tennessee has basically said: "We only want the lesser educated. We only want people who are not as well educated to come work for us in the state."

From Neal Boortz:
Here's some commentary on the state of Tennessee and its decision not to let home schooled students work for the government. It would seem to me that if you are home schooled you are probably too damned smart to be working for government. Here in Atlanta the main purpose of the local government school system is to provide the city with government employees.
Many of us had grandmas with mere 8th grade educations that did a better job raising a generation than we're doing with our college degrees. No reasonable person looks at the condition of our country, its workforce and its education system and says---"It's those private schoolers that are the problem. Let's shut them out." They look at the government education system and say--"This has got to change." Until then, the truth is that a government diploma will continue to be 'good enough for government work'.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Not worthless

Councilman Eric Crafton and his Save Our Students groups aren't the only ones who can crunch the education statistics. Red Hat Rob Shearer has spent considerable time today going through the State of Tennessee Department of Education's website and has some equally illuminating information. This is what happens when the DOE tells a homeschool parent their child's diploma is 'worthless'--they get busy proving it untrue.

I got curious this week about tracking down median ACT scores for Public vs. Private vs. Homeschool high school graduates. It turns out, even in the age of public data on the internet that this is not an easy question to answer. If the data to answer this question already exists somewhere on the internet, it’s extraordinarily well hidden.
So, we can now end the speculation and report with confidence that in 2007, in Tennessee, ALL students averaged a 20.7 composite ACT score, PUBLIC SCHOOL students averaged a 20.30 composite ACT score, and PRIVATE SCHOOL students averaged 21.85 composite ACT score. In other words, in 2007 private schools and home schools averaged 1.15 points higher on the ACT than the public schools. But of course, it’s the private school diplomas that the Department of Education thinks are suspect.
If you want to check Rob's figures or see what other info he lays out you'll find a link to his data at his blog.

This helps

I complained some time back about the lack of agendas and committee schedules being published in time for citizens to follow what's going on during this end of session rush. It seems only fair to point out when the legislature has been helpful. Here's an example.

Thanks. I'll try and have a life in the meantime.

Just 2 years

Mississippi has a new requirement for their superintendent of schools:

Mississippi is sending a strong message to its superintendents: Fix your low-performing school districts within a two-year period, or you’re out.

Under legislation signed May 12 by Gov. Haley Barbour, local superintendents would lose their jobs if their districts were labeled “underperforming” as measured by the state accountability system for two years in a row. Education Week.

Let's hope our new superintendent/director's contract gives us some real power. I don't know anyone who wants to fork over another quarter of a million dollars to get rid of another underperforming director of schools.

Where were they?

Ben Cunningham answers the question "Why did parents stay away in droves?" with:

Because parents are not concerned with the qualifications
of yet another education bureaucrat.

Which is absolutely true. Ever helpful, Ben has a suggestion to send attendance through the roof.

You don't have to persuade me that many parents have little hope regarding their voice actually having an impact. Add to it the very short notice given about the meetings, being in the middle of the busy spring concert/graduation/push to finish school season, the fact that they're required to travel down to Bransford Avenue and still have lives and care for their children and keep their jobs and it's little wonder that turnout is low. However, now that the word is out and they'll be additional meetings I think they'll see attendance rise. It would have been better, imo, if they'd have arranged to actually get into the districts to make attending a bit easier on parents.

Frankly, I would have thought that an engaged and active BOE would have already had regular community meetings in their districts and would already know what to tell these headhunters about the kind of person they want as director.

Inexhaustable wind

The Tennessee Democrat Party's braying blog is too quick to accuse Senator Lamar Alexander for his call to drill for oil.

Speaking of energy and conservation while in the lush mountains of East Tennessee is in fact effective; however, crusading against wind energy (perhaps to protect your own backyard vista) and encouraging drilling for oil in America, far removed from your own home is too self serving.
It seems they have Alexander confused with their own Kennedy family. A quick google search on 'wind power' and 'Kennedy Compound' brings up over 44,000 hits. The Kennedy roadblock to wind power goes back years. Here's a sample from their own Boston Globe:

The 130-turbine, 24-square-mile cluster of windmills would be about 8 miles from Kennedy's home in Hyannis Port, and he has long opposed it. The Coast Guard bill would give Governor Mitt Romney, another wind farm opponent, the power to veto it, even if the project clears all other hurdles.

Kennedy rejected suggestions that he doesn't like the wind farm because it would be near his Cape home, and said the project probably wouldn't be visible from the Kennedy compound. He said he's against the project because it would create a range of environmental and navigational problems and would hurt tourism, one of the area's key industries
The Democrats need to start with getting their own politicians to back wind power before they start throwing stones at others. I'm sure would appreciate the support.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Don't let the door hit you

Soon to be "Former State Rep. Rob Briley" hasn't worked through his issues yet. Instead of taking his lumps like a man he squeezes those sour grapes one more time and points his finger at those who only reported on his bad actions and encouraged his leaving public office. Likely he wasn't listening to his counselor when they said "They didn't MAKE you do anything. You made those choices."

From the City Paper:

“The right to a free and open press though comes with a responsibility, and from my experience over the past year, that responsibility is not being lived up to,” Briley (D-Nashville) said from the main House podium.
The right to represent the people of the State of Tennessee also comes with responsibility. As does being a husband and father. My suggestion to Mr. Briley is that he focus on his family responsibilities for the foreseeable future and not conduct himself in a manner that makes headline news then he won't have to worry about whether the media is fulfilling their responsibilities or not.

I can't help but notice that Briley thanked his children and his legislative colleagues but neglected to thank his ex-wife, or his longsuffering brother and mother for helping him to get this far--alive. Yes, he's still got stuff to work through. I'm glad that after today...he'll have more time to work on it all.

Please, cry me a river

According to the Tennessean:

The clip attracted a large audience on YouTube after Obama criticized it Monday. At 1:50 p.m., it had been viewed more than 290,000 times; by 3:30, the number approached 483,000. [It's over 664,000 as of 5/19/08 at 12:30 p.m. Central]
Those "meanies" at the Tn GOP created a video which hadn't gotten much airplay until AFTER Obama chose to whine about it on national TV. Seems to me Obama can't have it both ways. He can't complain about how unfair it was and then be the agent that ensures hundreds of thousands more people see it. I have to assume that he intended to flip what was originally a small swipe at the Mrs. by one state GOP PR arm into a much bigger opportunity for his campaign's benefit. Good job, Obama. I suggest you report that Tn GOP in-kind contribution in your financial disclosure documents.

Actually, I prefer this Tn GOP effort instead.

Cue full panic mode

You'll find this at Bill Hobbs blog regarding the illegal "Tennessee Plan" of selecting Supreme Court judges:

In recent months, suspects arrested by a Rockwood, Tennessee, police officer, had to be let go and the cases dropped because the officer's high school diploma came from a church-related school and that the Tennessee Department of Education has (without legislative authority) declared such diplomas to be invalid for employment as a police officer - thus invalidating the arrests.

If an invalid diploma can cause an arresting officer's arrests to be invalid, could unconstitutionally seated judges and justices have all of their rulings and decisions over the last 15 years called into question?

Whoa! I'm sure no one behind Sen. Wilder's illegal judicial selection plan anticipated wholesale dismissal of rulings and retrials from here into the next decade. You'll find a few other serious issues mentioned at Hobb's blog that have to be taken into consideration. Each one is another good reason to abide by the State Constitution and not give this partisan plan another day of life. Maybe the legislature thought they were employing supreme court justices but it's very likely they created a huge jobs program for lawyers across the state.

For background on the police officer see

UPDATE: Lawyer Ned Williams weighs in on the chaos that may or may not result from the failure of the legisalture to renew the Tennessee Plan.

Monday, May 19, 2008

BOE Family Reunion II

I attended the 'focus' group at the MNPS Board Room hosted by headhunters Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, Ltd. Their Joan Levy, John Simpson and Doyle Valdez were there to hear comments from former board members and current Board candidates. I was surprised at how few showed up. I was disappointed to see only five former Board members and only three candidates attend. We were only told of the meeting late last week so it's reasonable to assume that it wasn't enough advance notice for some folks. We did have the option of returning the questionnaire by mail or fax. Hopefully, most folks did that much.

Because one former Board member seemed concerned about 'press', they know I blog, I won't name names but there were some interesting comments and I have a few observations to make.

First off let me say that the Board Room has been completely renovated and it's palatial compared to most of our classrooms. That's just shameful. It's my opinion that the Board Room should be the last place to look so good, have such comfortable chairs and get a new paint job. They've also added some large screen TV screens and a huge panel that now blocks the view of their inner conference room door. I guess that's so folks won't see BOE members getting up and going back for snacks, making phone calls, etc. during meetings.

Speaking of privacy one former BOE member did bring up the question of sunshine laws. Were they, as consultants, acting as agents of the BOE and thus required to submit to sunshine laws? The headhunters hadn't dealt with Tennessee sunshine laws and so they perked up at the thought that what they considered was going to be off the record may not actually be. It'll be interesting to see how that works out. Already the meeting was providing valuable.

Ms Levy of Hazard, et al, said that the plan was to gather community input on what the new Director of Schools should look like, advertise for qualified candidates, go through the responses and present to the BOE 3-5 candidates for them to interview. The goal being to provide those names in September so they can offer a contract late in October. The public won't know the names until they're whittled down to the select few the BOE actually wants to interview. It'll all be out in the open then and the real vetting can begin. Errr....that is if Tennessee sunshine laws don't say differently.

If former Director of Schools Pedro Garcia had a fan in the room, they remained silent while much of the chaos that the system is currently in was laid at his feet. The group made it pretty clear that the new director will have a mess to clean up and have serious trust issues. Unless, as one former member wisely pointed out, the new guy is someone we already know and trust. One candidate actually voiced their opinion that the new director should be a Tennessean.

I believe we also agreed that Nashville has all the resources necessary to make this system work. World class leaders in education, lots of moneyed citizens, a committed core of citizens willing to do hard work.

After this meeting I'm wondering if a yearly summit of all former BOE members might be helpful. There has got to be a huge history reserve that could be utilized by the current BOE if only they had the opportunity to network. Names were mentioned this morning by some folks long off the Board that I had long ago forgotten. It might even help if MNPS at least provided some sort of timeline of former BOE members, directors, etc. so if someone wanted to reach out to them, they might be able to.

File under Petty Distractions: In expressing my views I repeatedly referred to the potential candidate as 'he'. I was interrupted by one former BOE member when they couldn't contain themself any longer and had to insert 'or she'. I don't care if it's a he or she. I do care about having to stumble over the s/he while I'm trying to get my thoughts out there as this complainant eventually did during their own comment time.

I am grateful for the opportunity to provide input for this search. I was glad to take some time to be as helpful as I can so that the children of MNPS will get better than what they've gotten. On my drive there I passed two public housing areas and was reminded again what a huge impact, for positive or ill, that the school experience of those children could be. I want to encourage you to take some time to provide the BOE with your own thoughts on who should next steer this system. It is absolutely clear to me that this system will not succeed if parents, taxpayers and voters don't remain involved.

Email all the BOE members with this link.

The REAL Tennessee Plan

From the Tennessee State Constitution, Article VI:

Section 3. The judges of the Supreme Court shall be elected by the qualified voters of the state.
No other plan should ever have been substituted outside of amending that constitution. Senator Wilder's "Tennessee Plan" was illegal from the get go and should never have survived this long. It was Wilder's choice to stand and beg his co-legislators to save his illegal legacy last week. It was his choice to end his career in this fashion. We don't deserve being taken to the woodshed by a newspaper columnist who obviously has lost his objectivity in the matter. It was painful to watch Wilder beg and speak about the cosmos. No man who is so well thought of in his personal life should have that rambling, emaciated image as our parting memory of him. I kept wondering why Wilder's family hasn't persuaded Grandpa to stay at home and leave these matters to younger and more cognizant men.

In the meantime we should not allow sentiment to usurp law. There is a Tennessee Plan for our Supreme Court and it should be strictly adhered to:

The judges of the Supreme Court shall be elected by the qualified voters of the state.

What part of state government isn't?

“Look, this is complicated; it’s legally complicated,” Bredesen said Friday. “It’s complicated just getting the numbers right so that we can have a program that fits within the program we have allocated to it.”

That's Gov. Bredesen's excuse for withholding information from his own Democrat pals in the legislature as well as the Republicans (and that one independent). I don't know which is more astonishing that the Governor, after all these years, hasn't accumulated a staff competent enough to create and explain this 'buyout' plan to the legislature so we have to expend another half a million dollars to a private firm or that he fully expects the legislature to 'trust him' and hand him the keys to the kingdom. I saw him on TV last night threatening them by saying they could hang around a couple more weeks for the explanation or they could just trust him and go home. What's really upsetting is I have no confidence that the legislature will push back and demand a full accounting from the Governor.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Is this supposed to be comforting?

"A special nine-officer task force has been assigned to cover Metro schools graduation ceremonies, which began Thursday and run through May 24." Tennessean
Or maybe this was supposed to be comforting:
"Metro students test high-tech metal detectors: Many of them will have to walk through Metro's two new mobile metal detectors, to be used at random when there is a threat or drugs and weapons on school grounds."


"I think they are a really good idea, because we will be able to be 100 percent sure we're safe," H.G. Hill Middle student Laura Moribe said. Tennessean

Because no one ever used anything organic as a weapon, right?

UPDATE: or this:
Instead of signing in the traditional way, with a handwritten log and generic I.D. badge, visitors must now check in through the LobbyGuard security system. The computer scans a visitor's driver's license; takes his/her photo; and then prints an adhesive photo I.D. badge with a bar code. Tennessean

What's not being said

I'm sorry that MNPS BOE member Karen Johnson (District 6-Antioch) failed to finish the job by ensuring parents knew the whole story when she posted the following to her blog. (Of course, no other BOE member even publicly commented so she's ahead of them for what that's worth.)

Tentative Contract Approved with MNEA

Great news! MNEA and the Board’s bargaining team have tentatively agreed to changes to the 2008-2009 contract. Highlights of the agreement include (1) a provision to double the current stipend for National Board Certified teachers to $4,000, (2) recognition for all creditable service on the teacher salary scale starting July1, 2008, (3) more inclusive anti-discrimination language, and (4) agreement on the state-mandated differentiated pay plan. The School Board plans to ratify the agreement at our regularly scheduled June 10 meeting.
Tentative Agreement

From the Tentative Agreement as posted by BOE member Karen Johnson:
"Article III, Section I, Non-Discrimination
[New language is noted in bold.]

There shall be no discrimination in the filling of positions, administrative or classroom or extracurricular because of race, religion, creed, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, color, age and/or disability. Nor shall an applicant for a position be discriminated against because of grade level taught where that experience is not requisite to the desired qualifications."
Like it or not this is a HOT topic across the nation, this is a big change to this agreement and any attempt to keep this under wraps to prevent trouble and slip this past legitimately concerned citizens is just wrong. Show a backbone and let parents and taxpayers know just what's going on. Let's vet this in the full light of day 'for the children's' sake.

According to the City Paper you have until Tuesday, June 10 to communicate back and forth with the BOE about this important change in the agreement with MNEA. Take a moment to
email all the BOE members with this link.
Here's the MNPS BOE page where you can obtain phone numbers and mailing addresses.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Hacks R Us

Apparently, hope does spring eternal. The headline in Friday's Tennessean caught my eye...something about 'conservation' and the budget. Had the Governor actually seen the error of his ways and relented on his pet Conservation Hall party bunker and realized the money could and should be spent to benefit rank and file citizens of Tennessee?

No. Not at all. The headline actually read:

It was even worse.
"Funds collected for environmental conservation could be used to fill an unexpected $15 million budget gap created because lawmakers objected to ending a tax exemption for some family businesses."
$15 million. Ummm....that's pretty close to the amount that party bunker costs...depending upon whose numbers you use to calculate the cost. Citizens are still waiting to see hard numbers on all of it.

So not only has the governor chosen to prefer his party bunker over the school children of the state via additional funding for Pre-K classes or TennCare, he's also chose the comfort and convenience of the wealthy power brokers over the preservation of state wild areas. This from the man who insisted on spending some $82 million for land acquisition in the Upper Cumberland not that long ago.

In the meantime we've finally been allowed to view some of the correspondence concerning the Bredesen Bunker because the Tennessee Center for Policy Research is doing a good job of dogging the administration to hand over the people's business. However, the hirelings at the administration are very good at what they do and are creating new tricks for the book in order to keep withhold information. Someone's definition of 'political hacks' needs updating.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Diploma discussion

The discussion of the Dept. Of Education nullifying the Category IV diplomas of private and homeschoolers across the state was the subject of discussion on yesterday's Michael DelGiorno show on WWTN SuperTalk 99.7 in Nashville. Many thanks to Michael and WWTN for allowing us to provide the audio of Michael's interview of Rob Shearer as VP of TACRS (Tennessee Association of Church-Related Schools). It's about 12 minutes long and is a very good overview of the implications of the Dept. Of Education's actions. Rob also explains that the bill that would reflect the previous will of the legislature which has been working fine for decades. HB1652 is still in the no-man's-land called the House Calendar and Rules Committee. A committee very much in control of the House Democrats, many of whom have already expressed their bias against education choices not directly controlled by the government school system when they voiced their opinions during the House Education Committee hearings on this bill and two others this year. Here's the audio in mp3 format.

Rob encourages people to contact their State Representatives and ask them to support this bill. I see the bill is first up on the Calendar & Rules Committee today. That Committee will meet after Finance Ways and Means is finished with their meeting. I'm told, though, by Rep. Mike Bell's gracious and patient secretary assistant, that the Legislative Plaza's power has just gone out and so there's likely to be a delay. (Insert joke about the legislature operating in the dark on a regular basis here.)

Rob Shearer blogs as RedHat Rob at Contending with the Culture and he's been tracking this legislation. Also you can find much more detail at

BOE Family Reunion

In the mail yesterday was an invitation from MNPS BOE Chair Marsha Warden (District 9-Bellevue) to participate in a former school board member focus group to help Hazard, Young, Attea & Assoc. find the new superintendent of schools. This could be a very interesting meeting.

The letter also included a two page "Leadership Profile Assessment" form which I am asked to fill in and bring with me or mail in if I'm unable to attend the focus group. Apparently, this form is going out to a number of groups as I have to indicate if I'm an Administrator, Board, Community, Faculty, Parent, Student, Support Staff, Elected Officials, State Department of Education.

Question #1: What do you consider to be the two or three most significant strengths of this School District?

Question #2: What do you consider to be the two or three most important challenges or issues facing this School District?

Question #3: Please share two or three characteristics which you would like to see in the new superintendent.

Question #4: Based on hyour perceptions of the needs of the disgtrict, please ranak the following characteristics/skills in order of important from 1-10 with 1 being most important.

___ Ability and willingness to deal directly and fairly with faculty, staff, students, parents and community

___ Accountable and holds everyone in the organization accountable for his/her respective area of responsibility

___ Awareness of instructional and administrative applications of technology

___ Belief in data-based decision making that focuses on the individual needs of students

___ Collaborative

___ Effective communication skills: verbal, written and listening

___ Experience as a superintendent

___ Experience in a multi-cultural environment

___ Fiscal management expertise

___Knowledge of emerging research and best-practices in the area of curriculum/instructional design and implementation

___ Effective Organizational Leadership
Understanding of what happens in a school on a day-to-day basis

Question #5: Please share any additional thoughts below or on an additional sheet of paper.

Question #6: Do you know someone you feel would be a good candidate for the superintendent's position? If so, please write his/her name and address or phone number here or send it to Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, Ltd. ....Thank you....

We've already discussed some of these items on the blog, but I'll be very happy to hear the opinions again and will be happy to include them in my response to this form and forum.

Let's hope that the name of these headhunters (Hazard) isn't any indication of what's to come. :-)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Capital letters--they're a good thing

Speaking of what the community can do to help Metro about headlines that begin with capital letters? Presenting standard English in the city's paper of record couldn't hurt their TCAP or SAT scores at all, might even help. I'll trade hip and trendy for educated any day.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Pot meet Kettle

The Tennessean is doing a three part series on Metro Schools. A complaint in this morning's edition is that Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and even the head of the Metro Council's Education Committee, Metro Nashville Councilman Mike Jameson (East Nashville) send their children to private schools. Personally, I think that as long as it takes their tax money and their vote to run the system they have full standing in how it's run. Obviously, Ms. Umberger of the TEA ascribes to the 'you don't have a legitimate voice unless you've got skin in the game' point of view. She may want to rethink that.

This from a segment of the series today:

Cheryl Umberger with the Tennessee Education Association, the teachers union, was more critical of city leaders who opt out of public schools:

"Teachers are very sensitive when the people in charge of making major decisions that govern their school system don't invest in that school system by sending their own children there.

Taxpayers are also very sensitive when the very people who work in the school system say it's not good enough for their own children.

Public school teachers in urban districts send their own children to private schools at a greater level than do other people. From the Thomas Fordham Institute we learn that of the top 50 cities Nashville ranks 38th in the number of teachers that do not enroll their children in the government schools. That's 28.6% of Nashville teachers don't enroll them in MNPS vs. 7.2% of the rest of the population. That's just over 7% more than the national average.

I'll never insist that any child be required to stay in a system that doesn't work for them or their family--a teacher's child included. However, my suggestion is that the teachers in the government schools lead by example and walk the walk before they demand it of others.

We've got the money

It's been hard to keep up with MNPS and homeschooling fights at the legislature at the same time but in skimming the City Paper's article of last Friday this jumped out:

[Connie Smith, accountability head for the Tennessee Department of Education] told the board that many of the district’s NCLB problems can be addressed with the funding already available, if those dollars are targeted specifically to problems identified by AYP failings and by state audits.
I wonder if MNPS BOE Chair Marsha Warden (District 9-Bellevue) would have admitted the following if she was still running to keep her position:
“Math is the issue,” said board chair Marsha Warden on Thursday. “We have deficiencies in math, pretty much [in grades] ‘K’ through 12.”
And this doesn't make sense to me:
One challenge Metro schools — as well as many other public school districts across the nation — faces in improving math proficiency is finding staff members. According to Warden, the district was able to significantly improve reading skills by making the “best and brightest” teachers reading specialists, allowing students to receive individualized, in-depth instruction.

The strategy doesn’t work as well with math teachers, Warden said, because turning a talented math teacher into a math specialist often leaves voids in classrooms that are hard to fill.

“We can’t replace those positions,” Warden said. “[Many of the people] with math skills [are] not teaching.”
And creating reading specialists that allowed individualized, in-depth instruction for students didn't create any voids in the classrooms? Why can't those math teachers be replaced? This reads like we've got 'untalented' math teachers. If that's the case--I'm all for swapping out a few untalented for talented and paying the talented more if the going rate hasn't been enough to attract them.

Hall instead of Haynes

A big upside to the nonsense that was Rep. G. A. Hardaway's (D-Memphis) attempt to test non-public schoolers, that would be the attack before the current homeschool diploma's are 'worthless' attack, I met Michelle Hall. She and several of her children attended one of those hearings and she introduced herself and told me that her husband David Hall, a Goodlettsville small businessman, was running against Joe Haynes (D-Nashville) in the 20th Tennessee Senate District. It was very good news at a very frustrating time.

I just got an email from Michelle this morning letting me know that David's website is up and they're ready to get volunteers lined up in preparation for what I'm sure is going to be a hard push back from Sen. Haynes. You'll find some of David's positions at his 'Return to Common Sense' page. His children have created which is their e-book about their dad.

So I'm happy to pass on to you my recommendation that you vote for this Republican on November 4. That seems like a long lazy summer away but November will be here before you know it and now is the time to ensure that David has a firm foundation and the resources necessary to actually win in November and that the Senate continues in Republican hands.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Encouraging choice in the meantime

While waiting to hear how our own Tennessee Legislature will vote on our current education choices in Tennessee I'm preparing to be in Memphis next week to host a panel on homeschooling for the US Department of Education's Innovations in Education Summit.

May 15: (Thursday)Memphis: US DOE Regional Summit on Innovations in Education featuring a panel discussion with TnHomeEd Founder Kay Brooks, author of "So-Why Do You Homeschool?" and Nashville area homeschooler Mimi Davis and Betty Schmidt mother of a special needs child.

The U.S. Department of Education's Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and the Office of Innovation and Improvement will conduct regional summits to highlight educational innovations. The summits will showcase educational options at the local level and seek to empower community leaders and parents with information, ideas, and successful models that can be replicated elsewhere.

Registration is free and includes lunch.

  • 9:00: Welcome & the National School Choice Environment
  • 9:30: Expanding Parental Options to choose Private Schools--Choice Programs in the States (to include panelist Eric K. Hilgendorf, Director of Charter Schools & Choice, TN Department Of Education)
  • 10:45 Charter Schools in Action
  • 12:00 luncheon with keynote speaker Mary McDonald, Super. of Schools, Diocese of Memphis
  • 1:15 Expanding Parental Options to Choose Private Schools, moderated by Karla Dial, Managing Editor of School Reform News.
  • 2:15 Private School Choice in Action, moderated by Drew Johnson, President of the TN Center for Policy Research
  • 3:30: Choice in Action - Homeschooling, moderated by Kay Brooks, Founder,

Thursday, May 15, 2008
9:00am - 5:00pm (Registration begins at 8:30am)

Hilton Memphis Hotel
939 Ridge Lake Boulevard
Memphis, TN 38120
(901) 684-6664

Registration Form

If you can attend, make sure you come up and introduce yourself. Our panel begins at 3:30 p.m.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Information please

I'm waiting for the House Calendar and Rules Committee to meet so I can see how they handle HB1652 regarding Category IV diplomas. So many of the same people who voted against it in the House Education Committee are also on the Calendar and Rules Committee that you have to wonder if they'll let it move forward.

There is no certain start time for this meeting. It is scheduled to start after Education, a budget update, after Government Ops and Finance, Ways & Means. Forget sufficient notice to the people regarding how things are being done or what's being done. Forget knowing when they're meeting. Forget know what they're meeting about. It's fruitbasket upset season at the Tennessee Legislature. Sadly, it's normal for our legislature, particularly the House, to lollygag for the first several months and then cram as much legislation through and past inquiring citizens and advocates as possible in the last couple of weeks. The result is that often no one knows what they're actually working on and sometimes you have to believe that's by design.

I watched a few minutes of the Government Operations Committee and was astonished to find that the Committee Chair Rep. Barbara Cooper (D-Memphis) was NOT providing Rep. Mike Bell the list of entities that the committee was voting on NOT sunsetting. Because Rep. Cooper has a habit of being a 'low talker' it was hard to follow but it sounded like they were about to vote on the status of some 90 entities. Rep. Bell requested that the bill be rolled to the 'heel' of the calendar in order to allow time for him to review the list and make an informed vote. Clearly irritated by the inconvenience she told him that the list was being printed but she insisted the vote occur then. Being denied reasonable information, Rep. Bell did the only thing he could at the time. He voted no.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Good enough for UT, Vandy, Harvard...

"Not worth the paper they're written on."

That's how Tn DOE Executive Director of Field Services Cindy Benefield is being quoted as having described the diplomas received by tens of thousands of students across the state. These students have received their diplomas from Category IV schools as defined by the State Board of Education. Of course, their onerous rules for us won't apply to their teachers who don't currently have baccalaureate degrees. It doesn't take into account student ACT/SAT scores and doesn't take into account the tens of thousands of homeschoolers who have successfully matriculated on to colleges and trade schools since the CRS law was written. Common sense and tack records aren't being considered here. Shouldn't those schools be the best judges of the value of the student's diploma? No, this is a heavy handed and protectionist power play by educrats and their political appointees.

Benefield's loose words have resulted in a policeman who graduated 7 years ago, received a 4.0 during his training and had been on the job for months being removed from the field and his arrests being fresh fodder for criminal attorneys. Also a grandmother's day care operation was threatened when the state determined that her employee had one of these 'worthless' diplomas and grandma is now forced to fire her granddaughter in order to keep her license.

It's being reported that ITT Technical school has been denying registration based on this woman's words.

Rep. Mike Bell (R-Riceville) presented to the House Higher Education Committee last week an amendment that would require the state and its agencies to recognize these diplomas issued by church-related schools sanctioned by TCA 49-50-801.

SECTION 1. Tennessee Code Annotated, title 49, chapter 1, Part 1, is amended by adding a new section thereto, as follows:

Section 49-1-1___. Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, a student who has a diploma recognized under §49-50-801 or §49-6-3030 shall be considered by all departments, agencies or entities of state government as possessing a valid high school diploma. this section shall not apply to state lottery proceeds as provided in title 49, chapter 4, part 9.

That committee approved it for passage and sent it on the the full House Education Committee with the understanding that the DOE and Rep. Bell would try and come to some agreement.

Frustratingly, the DOE provided an amendment that would pretty much negate TCA49-50-801 and require 9-12 graders to be taught by those with a baccalaureate degree.

SECTION 1. Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 49, chapter 1, Part 1, is amended by adding a new section thereto, as follows:

Section 49-1-1-1____. Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, a student who has a diploma awarded by § 49-50-801 or §49-6-3050 shall be considered by all departments, agencies or entities of state government as possessing a valid high school diploma as long as all entities issuing diplomas pursuant to the above statutes require and document that all teachers conducting classes in kindergarten through grade either (K-8) hold a valid high school diploma or GED and all teachers conducting classes in grades nine through twelve (9-12) hold at least a baccalaureate degree awarded by a college or university accredited by an accrediting agency or association recognized by the state board of education. This section shall not apply to state lottery proceeds as provided title 49, chapter 4, part 9.

SECTION 2. Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 49, Chapter 50, Part 801, is amended by deleting subsection (b) in its entirety and substituting instead the following:

(b) with the exception of requiring all teachers conducting classes in kindergarten through grade either (K-8) to hold a high school diploma or GED and all teachers conducting classes in grades nine through twelve (9-12) to hold at least a baccalaureate degree awarded by a college or university accredited by an accrediting agency or association recognized by the state board of education, the state board of education and local boards of education are prohibited from regulating the selection of faculty or textbooks or the establishment of a curriculum in church-related schools.

One of the primary reasons that code was created was to enable parents without a BA/BS to school their children at home. The DOE sees this as a chance to take back land they couldn't hold on to back in the '80's.

The Tennessee House Education Committee room will again be filled with homeschoolers today. They'll be clogging the phone lines again. They'll be maxing out the state's video streaming of this hearing. They're tired of this year of assault and they will be remembering this election season who was for freedom in education and parental rights.

You can find more details on all this, to include video of the House Ed hearing, legislative contact information, etc. at During those hearings Rep. Tommie Brown (D-Memphis) had the best question. Since these diplomas have been fine for years and years "what has changed?" It's a great question.

Update: The bill passed with the amendment homeschoolers were hoping for.
Read Red Hat Rob's blog
for a great overview. The Memphis/Winningham contingent ate up an entire hour trying to block it. But our friends stood firm. We're tremendously appreciative. It's on to the full House and then the Senate.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

No balance in academia

No real surprise in the research that Jay Greene reveals in his post today but it needs to be said out loud and over and over. Academia is NOT a representation of America. It's likely a representation of what they'd LIKE America to be... but America isn't there yet. So, in this political season Greene looks at the presidential contributions provided by academia and discovers their contributions to the right are few and far between.

But I do find these results troubling in two ways. First, if universities are going to lack balance in the perspectives that are represented on campus, they should be open and honest to prospective students and donors about that imbalance. Like Christian colleges, they should declare their focus and priorities up front rather than pretending that they are inclusive of all views.
I agree. Higher education consumers could use something more than slick brochures of a pretty campus. Knowing what sort of frame the instructors are going to put around their lessons are more important. If you doubt they're inclusive of all views...see Ben Stein's "Expelled-No Intelligence Allowed". We can't even talk about the subject of origins or problems with the theory let alone get fair representation regarding how to deal with the issues of the day. You want to emulate the '60's student radicalism? You'll have to join the student conservative (that's right wing, republican, pro-free market, pro-life) group. Academia created the radical student movement and they're finding themselves playing the role of the administration this time 'round.