I’ll make this brief.
“Researchers found that when a group is shown photos of different people, black women’s faces were least likely to be recognized out of a group of white men and white women. Statements said by a black woman in a group discussion were also least likely to be correctly attributed compared to black men, white women, and white men.” Harvard Business Review
For the first time in the history of Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools, the product of a fierce battle to merge city and county, the fifty-six-year-old school district has a woman at the helm. And she’s Black.
Native Nashvillian and MNPS product Dr. Adrienne Battle was named interim director of schools in April when Dr. Shawn “Unchained” Joseph, with major ‘tude and a fat check in tow, rolled out after a tenure marked by controversy magnified and judged by an unrelenting spotlight.
In The Blink Of An Eye
Last week, the school board approved Dr. Battle’s interim status which could extend over the next two years or until such time a search yields a capable leader willing to take the job. Dr. Battle has the option to apply, but word on the street is semi-resigned school board member Will Pinkston and the board’s only male wants her gone, even though he initially supported the long-term interim situation.
Dr. Battle announced her leadership team this week and the take-no-prisoners school board member became unhinged about one of her staffing decisions, publicly calling into question her leadership capability. FYI — this policy of this school board is that its singular staffing responsibility is to hire and fire the director of schools. Full stop.
Hear Her Roar
So here we have the first Black woman to lead the 10,000+ employee organization and ten minutes into her tenure a major decision is publicly derided by a school board member.
Full disclosure: I do not know Dr. Battle, but over the years watched her star rise among the ranks. [see T.C. Weber’s interview for more info] Also, I am reminded that Battle’s name was floated as a possible temporary replacement months before Dr. Joseph left the building. Which tells me all I need to know about what was expected of her.
My guess is that Dr. Battle is a quiet leader and a team player, and the powers that promoted her to the top of the lineup believed she’d be a resistor of boat rocking and just capable enough to keep the ship from capsizing. That she’d realize her power and act upon it never crossed their minds. And just as others before her, she has been chided for leading without asking for permission or request for assistance. She did what she did.
Let Her Lead
So, I’m not going to use this space to talk about how Black women are neither seen nor heard unless or until we contort our agency in an attempt overpower hundreds of years of callous disregard at which point we’re judged for being too [insert negative adjective/adverb].
Further, it would be staid and predictable to add Malcolm X’s famous quote: “The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman.”
However, I will take this opportunity to challenge everyone to support Dr. Battle’s administration and tell a friend. The issues facing our district require the full support of our entire community – no matter who is leading. So put away your recording devices, hidden cameras, and fact-checkers and focus on the kids.