10,000+ Nashville Charter School Families Get Official Eviction Notice

This is what happens when politics outranks people.

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A resolution introduced by board member Mary Pierce enforcing the board’s role in advocating for every student (and family) failed in dramatic form this week. The breakdown of the vote on the measure to support ALL families was, unfortunately, not surprising — 4 voting yes, 3 abstaining, 1 refused to vote and 1 absent. But what shocks the system is the message it sends to the families on the other end of the failed motion. A message best explained in a Cee-Lo Green song “although there’s a pain in my chest, I still wish you the best with a F— you.”

There’s not much to add to this story besides petty commentary and that, quite frankly, does nothing for the parents now officially alienated from the school district. However, I do feel the need to amplify one tiny part of the school board’s own policy mandating the elected body to “advocate for the organization and all of the students it serves.” The failed motion means only one thing for these families, the school board has abdicated its responsibility to serve charter school children and families. Holla!

So, I urge parents to reach out to board members. Express appreciation to the members voting on your behalf and to those who didn’t vote for you respectfully remind them that you’re still part of the family. Like it or not.

“The resolution is not about whether or not our board philosophically supports charter schools — individual members have made positions clear on the board floor and on social media,” Pierce said. “Rather, this is about our service as board members as advocates for the entire district and all the students it serves.”

Please read every word of this resolution.

A resolution declaring the Board of Education’s intent to reaffirm our commitment to our Governing Policy Three: Board Job Description with a specific focus on number Eight: Advocate for the organization and all of the students it serves.

WHEREAS, Metro Nashville Public Schools currently serve students in all of the following: traditional zoned district schools for students in grades K-12, open enrollment district schools, pre-kindergarten programs, magnet schools, non-traditional academies, alternative schools, homeschool programs and public charter schools; and

WHEREAS, MNPS educates nearly 88,000 students who come from diverse cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, many with diverse learning styles*; and

WHEREAS, MNPS public charter schools, authorized by the MNPS Board of Education, serve almost 10,000 students; and

WHEREAS, the cultural and socio-economic diversity within MNPS public charter schools closely reflects that of the entire district**; and

WHEREAS, the Metropolitan Nashville Davidson County Board of Public Education is committed to providing every student a high-quality education that promotes social and emotional learning and strives for increasing academic achievement; and

WHEREAS these core beliefs are reiterated in the commitment in Governing Policy Three that this Board will “advocate for the organization and all of the students it serves;” and

WHEREAS, the Board of Education has been addressed on numerous occasions by parents and others with children enrolled in one of our 28 MNPS Board approved charter schools by way of letters and public comments that they do not feel supported by the totality of the board; and

WHEREAS, these same parents have asked that the Board of Education treat them and their schools with the same courtesy and respect extended to parents and educators in zoned schools, magnet schools, and all other types of schools authorized by the Board of Education; and

WHEREAS, this board has consistently adopted standards that promote collaboration, including the first Annenberg Standard, which states that “Traditional district and charter schools should work together to ensure a coordinated approach that serves all children”; and

WHEREAS, we recognize that in every type of school our organization offers or authorizes, there will be concerns that should be addressed by the Director of Schools and district staff, and RS-2017-3

WHEREAS, at times, advocacy for students and families with concerns might appear to conflict with advocacy for MNPS, it is possible to do so without disparaging the schools, the employees or MNPS, and

WHEREAS, all of our students, and their families, regardless of the schools they attend, deserve to be treated in a respectful, inclusive manner;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, the Metro Nashville Board of Public Education:

  1. Recognizes that our MNPS public charter schools are part of the organization of MNPS and serve the same diverse populations as our other MNPS schools; and
  2. Commits to ensuring its schools remain safe and welcoming places for all students and their families regardless of the type of school they attend; and
  3. Commits to treating students, parents, staff and leaders of MNPS public charter schools with the same respect and civility extended to those in district run schools; and
  4. Commits to handling concerns, issues and sensitive information reported by families or staff from a district charter school in the same discreet, consistent and professional manner as those brought by families or staff from a district-run school; and
  5. Commits to high standards of personal accountability when giving public statements (social media posts, opinion editorials, statements on the board floor, etc.) to ensure the accuracy of information to the best of one’s ability; and
  6. Commits to leading as a productive, student-centered board focused on making every MNPS school excellent.

Adopted this 13th day of June 2017.

(NOT ADOPTED)

I’m Declaring My Own Independence From All the Noise. It’s Time to Focus on the Kids.

Y’all, I’ve been stuck in The Sunken Place. But with Fourth of July rapidly approaching, I’m taking the opportunity to climb out.

“Get Out” movie director Jordan Peele created a not-so-mythical mental condition called The Sunken Place, a weird space between being “woke” and physical incapacitation. Knowing better, but for one reason or another, unable to do better. Some may simply call this being Black or Brown in America in 2017.

In an effort to battle my way out of this mental incarceration, I’ve spent the entire month of June on an inspiration safari, my personal journey to freedom. Luckily, after a calendar filled with coffees and lunches with folks who are doing the work, and some quality time with my fellow education bloggers, I’m moving further from The Sunken Place and closer to my truth.

Here’s What Truth Looks Like

Operating in my truth means to build up this platform created specifically to inform and inspire, to lift up Nashville’s marginalized parents, to remind families that neither race nor situation should determine their child’s educational outcome.

Remembering my belief in the magic of an incredible education, the power of an engaged parent, and the importance of a community unwilling to allow even one of its most vulnerable to fail. Confidently understanding this is the trifecta that will bring those on the margins into the center.

We’ve tried the “trust me” relationship with education systems for 150 years. All we got for it was under-educated and under-prepared graduates who feed the social service sector and prisons.
Chris Stewart, education activist and blogger at Citizen Ed

But from The Sunken Place I see the sick political games being played. I witness those with little to lose arrange and rearrange the pieces and change the rules on the backs of poor children. Watch them feed parents a big pile of bullshit and then expect them to happily consume it.  I’ve even seen them humiliate parents who actually had the courage to refuse the bullshit—in a display reminiscent of a public lashing.

Over the years, I have tried to be a team player for all sides of the education debate. But, I learned quickly that in the politics of education, it was expected that parents are supposed to choose a side—either the status quo or education reform—anything but the children!
Gwen Samuel, CT parent activist and blogger

Recently, I joined a couple dozen education bloggers at a summit that provided the occasion to experience former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan speak passionately about this work. Noticeably, Duncan laced his speech with “kids” and “children” and “students”…oh yeah, that’s who this is for. With all the adult politics, you can easily forget. It was sorely needed inspiration for embattled education advocates in need of a refill.

The former secretary’s speech reminded me that nasty tete-a-tetes with school board members do nothing for children. I was reminded that on the ground, where real families are making decisions, is where the magic happens. It was a reminder not to engage with the intellectually dishonest, and instead spend that energy on saving children and building up families and communities.

Because of the countless experiences during my 30-day safari, I’m working my way out of The Sunken Place and regaining my footing. I will continue to insist all parents be afforded the opportunity to make choices from a menu of great options. And if that choice is a zoned school, well, hallelujah! But when zoned is not the choice, I will not accept the traditional patriarchal response where parents are admonished, or even punished. (See this Nashville Scene article.)

I ask that you please stop the disparaging remarks toward our families for our choice.
Nashville Charter School Parent Camiqueka Fuller to School Board

This year’s Independence Day takes on a new meaning—a unique kind of freedom from the political shackles we all find ourselves. From this point forward, I won’t be accepting anyone’s leftovers, BS, half-truths, and untruths.

And I’m calling on you to roll with me.

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“We Believe Black People Must Seek That Education By Any Means Necessary.”

During the most recent Tennessee legislative session, the subject of vouchers was indeed the star of the show. While the existence and proliferation of charter schools is a hot topic around here, the discourse on using public dollars for private schools (vouchers) is transitioning from slow burn to a full-blown fire. Even though several bills were introduced during the 2017 session, only one passed, but there’s more to come in 2018. Here’s my take on the 2017 session.

What’s Up With Vouchers?

The argument for and against vouchers is very similar to that of charters. Supporters believe vouchers provide additional choices to families, particularly to the traditionally underserved. Meanwhile, the opposition believes the motivation behind vouchers is an agent of privatization and, therefore, will administer the final blow to public education. Sound familiar?

In this The 74 article, three great minds leading the national education debate joined forces to state the case for vouchers for Black children. Whether you love ’em or loathe ’em, this case for vouchers cannot be easily dismissed. You be the judge.

Check out Howard Fuller, Marquette University professor, Derrell Bradford of EVP of 50CAN, and Chris Stewart, CEO of Wayfinder Foundation:

Critics of school choice programs find the politics of empowering Black families with the wider range of options available to wealthier families difficult, but we don’t. Some may find it radical to believe that we should use every school available to ensure our children are educated. We don’t. Some may believe that the quest for “choice” and the historic role of private schools in education is a moral and historical inconvenience. Indeed, the opposite is true: It’s a necessity. Some believe vouchers and other forms of parent choice are a threat to democracy. The real threat to democracy is an uneducated populace. We believe Black people must seek that education by any means necessary.

Need Some Edu-Inspiration? Look No Further Than Chattanooga

If they can’t come to us, we will go to them!

This is the fuel behind The Passage, a mobile bus service started by two teachers in Chattanooga, TN. I’m not familiar with the transportation system in Chattanooga, but Nashville’s transit very often poses as a barrier for lower-income families to access greatly needed community resources.

In some of Nashville’s under-resourced areas, residents may benefit from mobile libraries and even healthcare services, but nothing with a focus on parent outreach. The Chattanooga teachers-turned-bus operators offer instruction to students, books/supplies, and allow meeting time with parents. I can’t think of a more revolutionary, compassionate, and generous way to engage parents.

“A lot of our parents don’t have cars, or the shifts they work don’t work with the schedule of time teachers are available at school, so this service allows convenience for them,” Ryan explains.

While it’s not realistic to expect educators to purchase a bus to engage parents, we must acknowledge this innovative effort to think about engaging parents. These teachers get it! They understand the importance of partnering with parents in this education thing. Because as they say, alone we can go fast, but together we will go far.

Get more information about The Passage on their Facebook page.


And more on Chattanooga…

The Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy recently received an award from the National Principal’s Leadership Institute for its turnaround in student performance. A former low-performing school, CGLA until new leadership righted the ship and now CGLA is one of only four schools in the nation to get this recognition.

“We were looking at closure, but then the incredible, magnificent and determined Dr. Elaine Swafford arrived on our campus and she turned this place upside down, inside out,” Wells said. “She turned it around so that now we are not only surviving, but we are thriving.”

Yep, leadership matters! Read more on CGLA here.

Of Ice and I.C.E.: A Strange Tale of Values, Sanctuaries, and Catfish

Nashville showed up and showed out for the Predators as the 16th seed blazing an icy trail to the western conference and sliding to the Big Dance against the 2016 champs Pittsburgh Penguins. There is a multitude of stories from this amazing journey to the Stanley Cup, but none more inspiring than the Stanley Cup-produced local hometown hero – #CatfishGuy.

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Jake Waddell courageously entered hostile territory (Pittsburgh) armed with nothing but a catfish and the love of his team. Following Nashville’s time-honored tradition, dude tossed a dreadfully decomposing mud cat onto the ice during game 1 of the NHL STANLEY CUP FINAL.  He definitely took one for the team and Waddell will always have a home in the hearts of Nashvillians. I, too, love #CatfishGuy!

I’m about to draw a wild parallel – stay with me.

Nashville’s Metro Council recently passed a bill to protect immigrants by going against federal law in a big way (think losing federal dollars). Apparently, the legislation was crafted in response to an incident involving Immigration and Customs Engagement (ICE) targeting members of the Kurdish community while posing as local law enforcement. And it pissed off our mayor.

My councilman and lawyer-by-day Larry Hagar abstained from this vote (due to legal uncertainty). My feelings about this vote are neither here nor there, but the noise in my community around his action needs attention.

Crazy talk as posted on a neighborhood Facebook group’s page:

‘Abstaining’ is the same as voting ‘yes.’ So you don’t seem to care if Old Hickory is over run by Illegals? Doesn’t Old Hickory suffer from enough crime Sir?

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First, I know not all Old Hickory residents feel this way. Second, baby girl has a right to call out her elected official for a (non) vote that challenges against her belief system. BUT — she can take that hate-laden rhetoric and stick it. Unfortunately, others joined the discussion in support of that mess, so they, too, can go to hell.

Because that kind of anti-immigration talk is reminiscent of my being called a nigger after moving to this area sixteen years ago. Additionally, maligning immigrants by associating them with crime reminds me of the women who protect their purses as soon as they lay eyes on me. But what hits me hardest is that 25,000 English Learners in our schools, some with families who are not here legally, stand to suffer the greatest. While our schools are tiny sanctuaries, the world around them is cruel.

So I think about misplaced priorities, the varying values attached to lives and laws, and the selective adherence to laws depending on the life.

#CatfishGuy devised a masterful plan to smuggle a catfish into a high-security international sporting event, even halting the nationally televised game to allow for clean up and the guy will never want for anything as long as he’s in this town. In the city of Nashville, and possibly in the state, Catfish Guy will always have a place to call home. A sanctuary even.

University Instructor Imposes Price on Free Exchange of Ideas

The University of Tennessee student featured in this Tennessean article challenged her instructor’s views on the state of the black family during slavery. Seems the instructor glorified the family structure while the student pointed out the peculiar institution’s role in ripping men away from their families (and let’s not forget other evil behavior toward slave women). 
I was taught college professors have the authority to do or say whatever they want because it’s their classroom. That’s certainly one way to survive college, but the other way is to use the brain the Good Lord gave you and be willing to defend yourself. I couldn’t be more proud of this student if she was my own child.  
Unfortunately, social media’s role in this might have exacerbated the situation, but clearly that was the point. And 45 year old Vesia would be slow to tag the instructor a racist but agree that racism rears its ugly face in our institutions in seemingly innocuous ways (institutional racism). 
As for the instructor’s behavior, defending herself through intimidation and ridicule, well, that’s just petty.

Parent to School Board: “Please Stop The Disparaging Remarks Toward Our Families For Our Choice”

Contributed by KIPP Nashville Collegiate High School parent Camiqueka Fuller as read at the June 13, 2017 school board meeting. Because five of nine board members were not attendance, the parents featured in this series expressed grave concern about the cold shoulder extended to charter schools and their families at board meetings. They have a voice, please listen. 


Good evening, my name is Camiqueka Fuller.

I am the mother of 3 beautiful and intelligent, but very different children. Anyone with more than 1 child can probably attest with me of how bewildering that can be. Yet, because we want the very best for our children, we work with them to grow in their strengths and overcome their challenges.

I’m reminded of my brother who struggled with many behavioral challenges in school; to the point that the teachers were calling home almost daily to report those challenges. My mom addressed and dealt with each of those issues.

However, it also prompted her to ask if there was anything good that they saw in her child. That’s where I am each time I see article after article of some of our elected school board officials. Is there anything good you see with Metro Nashville Public Charter schools? I would have loved to see an article congratulating the rising senior class of KIPP Nashville Collegiate High School – where over half of the students qualify for the Hope Scholarship, having scored a 21 or higher on the ACT, or a tweet applauding over a third of them that scored a 24 or higher.

Wouldn’t it have been nice to hear how many of the students, including my daughter who scored a 29, went back this past Saturday and took the ACT again, hoping to improve their scores and opportunities to get into the colleges of their choice?

While those deserved recognitions and countless others would have been nice, our students, and teachers, and parents continue to not only press and progress without them, but also in spite of the negative rhetoric of some of our elected school board members. Much like my brother, who went on to serve his country for 21 years in the Navy, earn his degree, and now continues to serve as a teacher in a public school.

While I laud the efforts of MNPS to improve the educational outlook for all of our children through choice, I ask that you please stop the disparaging remarks toward our families for our choice.