The State of Nashville Schools and the Focus on Students, Staff, and Services

Later this morning (at 10am) Nashville will have the opportunity to hear directly from director of schools Dr. Shawn Joseph as he lists budget priorities during his inaugural State of Metro Schools address. The $902 million budget for school year 2017-2018 has received little backlash, which could mean one of three things: either the district has done an effective job communicating and engaging the public, or charter schools have taken top billing – again, or everyone is just silly happy about the proposed salary increases.

Whatever the case, one look at the ever easy-to-understand budget courtesy of Chris Henson & Co., and there is little doubt where the director’s top priorities fall. For instance, the addition of Diversity and Equity and the renaming of functions Principal Leadership, STEAM, and Social Emotional Learning demonstrate a level of commitment to ensuring these areas get the attention they deserve.

Then, there are the healthy increases to areas like Information TechnologyTransportation, and Staff Development.  But the proposed increases to the following programs and services illustrate a muscular commitment to extending the reach within these areas:

  • Academies of Nashville (159%)
  • Advanced Academics (51%) 
  • Central School Counseling Services (150%)
  • Music Makes Us (123%) 
  • Research, Assessment, and Evaluation  (61%)

The Director’s Top Three (according to me)

I’ve spent more than a decade wading through the schools budget, but assessing the director’s priorities is a first. By this juncture in budget season, I would have already heard the director’s budget speech twenty times.

The district’s budget website is chock full of glossy documents spoon-feeding us the priorities of the director and school board. This particular presentation breaks down the budget in the following areas: Raising the bar for all students, Creating opportunities after high school, Serving the diverse needs of our students, Investing in excellent people, and Reinventing our middle schools.

Since I’ve spent an abnormal amount of time with the 2017-18 budget, I reserve the right to offer an analysis. You’ll note that I’ve shaved the district’s priorities down from an ornamental five to a very modest trio.  And with that, I present to you the director’s top three to me:


  1. Screen Shot 2017-04-10 at 6.28.32 AMStudents of Color – With the creation of Diversity and Equity ($563k) and robust increases in English Learners, Dr. Joseph has demonstrated a unique commitment to students of color. (In English Learners, the Supervisor function is set to get a 62% boost and the school/curriculum function is set to receive a 17% increase of nearly $3 million)
  2. Wraparound Services – It’s clear Dr. Joseph is painfully aware of the needs of a district with a majority poverty student population. As mentioned above Central School Counseling Services could receive an increase of 150%, combined with increases to Psychological Services (15%) and Counseling Services (9.5%). Additionally, the director is designating dollars to Academies of Nashville (AoN) to help fund tests and certifications for students in certain programs. The increases to Community Achieves and creation of the Social and Emotional Learning function also indicate the director’s commitment to helping our most vulnerable students.
  3. Staffing – The Human Resources department has seen many changes in the past 5 years and based on the dramatic increase in the FY17 budget change will continue to be constant for the department. HR could get $2 million or 36% increase that includes 8 additional staff and a bevy of teacher recruitment activities. I’m also including the Regular Teachers function here as this budget requests an additional 51 teachers equaling $4.7 million in the arts, physical education, and content specialists. Finally, the Literacy Program proposed increase includes funds for a cadre of additional reading specialists.

I could be way off the mark. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time, but if money talks the above areas are speaking volumes to me. I look forward forward to hearing what the good director has to say later today and will offer a follow up post with my concerns about the budget.

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