In my last post, I included a quote from the incomparable Oprah Winfrey during her now infamous Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award acceptance speech. The quote is simple and succinct, but the message packs a punch. “Speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.” The quote would seem to take on a life of its own as tragedies and court decisions forced the nation’s youth and its educators to take to the streets, weaponize their voices in support of gun control and higher salaries, respectively.
I believe in the right of Americans to assemble in peace for a greater good to communicate resistance or support to the power structure. So I shouldn’t have an issue with the organizing of the teacher-parent protest against Nashville’s director of schools, right? Wrong.
Teachers are well within their rights to protest their leaders, but what we have here is a school board member actively recruiting her employee’s employees to protest against him – in masks. Organizing is not governance and using a subordinate’s employees to do your bidding while wearing masks – well, that’s just unethical.
But I suppose the school board’s desperation to do something, anything, results from nearly a year of bad blood between the director of schools Dr. Shawn Joseph and three key school board members: Amy Frogge, Jill Speering and recently elected Fran Bush. To be fair, there are scores of teachers and principals who feel unsafe under Joseph’s administration and Frogge and Speering have served as a safe place for the disgruntled and the fearful. But exploiting teachers’ pain to force the hand of other board members to fire the director mimics the politics around the government shutdown.
So it appears the anti-Joseph contingent is preparing the battlefield for a bloody 2019, set to launch today. According to a text distributed by Jill Speering (that was not meant for social media but tweeted), the protest is scheduled for 4pm just before the first school board meeting of 2019. In response to Speering’s text, Dr. Joseph’s fraternity is assembling its own troops to “show up and support our children and our brother” at the same place and time. After months of silence, Joseph is getting much needed public support.
What’s Really Going On?
In the midst of all the assembling and protest, it’s budget season (remember last year’s communication trainwreck around the budget?) and the district has yet to find solutions to serious Human Resources woes that include employee lawsuits and its failure to report personnel misconduct reports to the state. The director and school board must devote their full attention to these pressing matters. The board cannot afford a second away from its responsibility to govern and the director has no time to set up and execute a defense against his employers.
If this protest happens today with teachers and parents against the director on one side and supporters of the director on the other, I’m unsure of what success looks like for either side. Once the dust settles we will still have a school district losing enrollment and roughly 13,000 students locked into schools gravely underfunded and underresourced. A truth worthy of a massive citywide protest.
UPDATE: Since this posting more organizing requests have been posted in support of Dr. Joseph.