Friday, December 05, 2008

Thursday 12/05/08

MNPS Budget:

MNPS BOE member Gracie Porter (District 5-East Nashville) “I certainly am not a proponent of having classroom teachers cut from the budget.” (via City Paper)

She's walking a tight rope here, as are several BOE members. Porter is careful here to mention classroom teachers but she's well aware of the fact she got about 75% of her campaign money in 2004 from the unions that will be insisting not one job be cut. It's time to repay that war chest.

The Tennessean is suggesting that "One option on the table includes allowing all employees to take pay cuts so that no layoffs are necessary." Obviously, they didn't run that by Metro Nashville Education Association President Eric Huth. Wonder if the MNPS BOE would consider walking in solidarity with the staff and take a cut themselves? Actually, they could start by brown bagging it instead of eating catered meals at district expense.

And those of you combing through the budget and financial commitments should not overlook the obligations regarding health and retirement that contracts with those unions have committed us to. It's not just GM/Ford/Chrysler that have been hampered by those.

New Director of Schools:

The Board interviews the three candidates this weekend in the Board Conference Room. The first interview starts Saturday from 9 to 11, the second from 11:15 to 1:15 and the third one on Sunday from 4 to 6.

I'll repeat what I said a year ago, let's leave Chris Henson as Superintendent--if he'll agree to it. THIS is not the time to bring in someone new when our situation is so tenuous with the State of Tennessee and the whole applecart could be tossed over in just nine months. I see no sense in taking a chance on an understandably limited pool of applicants in a rush to get someone in the job.

If qualified candidates were scared off by the pitiful open records laws in this state then let me suggest we just go whole hog and bring back elected superintendents. The answer is not to pull this huge decision back into the shadows but to bring it fully into the light.

Nashville Board of Education members also have been advised by [consultant] Attea to avoid commenting on individual candidates. So school board members were hesitant to speak in much detail as to their perceptions of the quality of the applicant pool. (via City Paper)
This annoys me and is typical of the way the MNPS Board operates. It provides convenient cover and short circuits real discussion between the public and their elected representatives at a time when their input should be considered. I think voters and parents need to know what our BOE members think about these applicants and their qualifications.

And we don't need to be taking advice from this fellow:
"I've never heard of these people, and it is my job to know everybody," said James Guthrie, chairman of Vanderbilt's department of educational leadership. "Maybe one will just come in and dazzle us — we need to be dazzled now." (via Tennessean)
I'll repeat myself. We need a hard worker who will put the actual education of the children first. If they're good at helping the community understand what that entails and how their need for flash and dazzle is a distraction to the core mission---so much the better.


Buckley said...

Guthrie's never heard of Register who led Chattanooga for so long?

You are right about the unions not insisting on layoffs. Many central office folks are members too. They will not get in the practice of arguing for classroom teachers to be protected over other educators who aren't as likely to work directly with children all day. I understand why- it's not just an organization for teachers, but for educators. I'm thankful to Mrs. Porter for making the distinction. I'm working on a chart or table that show the increases for administrative and support employees has risen significantly more in recent years than those who spend 80% or more of their work days directly teaching and supervising children. Maybe I shouldn't rant about this, maybe it just seems self-serving but it just seems incredibly counter productive to both curricular and safety goals to grow the administrative arm of MNPS at a greater rate than teachers. And I assure you I'm not saying this for my own situation, but for all classroom teachers, especially those at difficult schools. Stop sending people who sit in offices. These kids need more adults helping them throughout their day, not counselors or specialists or consultants or coordinators who may or may not have an impact. Am I off base here or what?

Lower class size and I might agree to a 3% pay cut. Not when I can see tens of millions of dollars spent on these other folks. Not when class sizes have been rising faster than the rate of pay. Nope, sorry, I'll encourage Mr. Huth to object myself.

Buckley said...

Sorry, one more thing.

regarding health and retirement

The plan administrator for MNPS educators will change in January from Blue Cross Blue Shield (who've had the contractfor thirty years) to Cigna. Apparently it will save around a million right off the bat as BCBS is one of the costliest administrators around. Not sure if that's a million off the current costs or from what BCBS would have charged next year, but still good news.

N.S. Allen said...

Elected superintendents? Just the thought is horrifying.

After all, the school board is elected, and, though it may be (read: is) notably inept in most of its functions, it's probably safe to say that the board members will be relatively well-informed about the candidates they end up considering for the position.

Whether they do anything with the information they're given is a totally different story, but, if we made superintendent an elected position, you'd just be giving the reins to a population with a record of apathy and poor choices in elections for education officials.

Personally, I'm crossing my fingers that the state takes over and passes significant power to Nashville's mayor. That'd make my day, and it'd make someone actually democratically accountable on these issues.