His First Five Minutes As A Teacher Tells Metro Schools Everything It Needs To Know About Protecting Its Young

Well into the school year Metro Schools found itself searching high and low for teachers. Though the new school year scramble is not unusual for an urban district, for years MNPS has been charged with hiring too late, missing out on the highly sought after newbies. While missed opportunities is an easy fix (better planning), there are other systemic human resource deficiencies that must be identified, addressed, and remedied.

In his recent blog Does MNPS Have A Teacher Attrition Problem?, high school AP History teacher Josh Rogen does what he does best by taking the reader on a journey through data in an effort to arrive at the truth. In this case, it seems the data takes him to a conclusion in opposition to his “pre-research” suspicions. The first half of the blog takes the reader through the numbers of teachers of all experience levels leaving Metro Schools. On par with the nation, the largest group of teachers leaving their posts is first-year teachers. And according to Rogen, there is a good reason for it in Nashville.

That entire first year, my principal saw me teach maybe two times. The vice principal, maybe two times. My literacy coach never entered the room. I had no explicit mentor…

The remainder of Rogen’s post is a generous account of his first five minutes as a teacher and the lessons that remain with him today. What I appreciate about Rogen’s blog is the invaluable consultation he offers for free to MNPS when they are notorious for lavishing tax dollars on over-priced consultants who provide lean advice and questionable outcomes.  But I digress.  He provides an important lens into the heart of the teacher attrition issue that is rooted in a culture of poor or absent in-school supports for new teachers, particularly in schools with a high concentration of poverty and where the teacher’s race stands out from the student population.

 Let’s also be real that race and class played a huge role in my experience. I was an upper-class, privately schooled white kid who was teaching in a very different environment. The teaching movies lied to me! J Were I a teacher of color, I think my experience might have been different, which really underscores just another reason that principals should be trying to hire teachers of color. But most of my friends within the district experienced something quite similar, including teachers of color.

From my perspective, teaching is not one of those gigs where a “go get ’em, Tiger!” will do. Think about it — new teachers are generally very young, experiencing new cultures and working with adults as an adult for the first time, and then suddenly solely responsible for dozens of little minds for 6 hours a day. We owe them titanium supports.

Check out Rogen’s blog Teach Run Eat Repeat follow him on Twitter @RogenJH.

Trying to Stay Woke in a World Where Decisions Are Made and Reversed in Blink of An Eye

In the book Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, the author offers an ocean of research to support the notion that our best decisions can actually be made within the blink of an eye. That our very first thought or feeling, usually fleeting, is, in fact, the best and most appropriate response.

But, more often than not, we overthink the thing, whatever it is. We Google, consult with our friends, call upon experts, all the while doubting ourselves by researching it to death only to arrive at the same conclusion as that very first thought.

I’m currently in the space between that brief, initial reaction to a situation and the final decision. The space where I’ve already experienced the first feeling (grrrr!) and in the process of decoding those feels (self-doubt) and checking out others’ reactions (research) to the news. What news you ask?

Schools Are Closed! No, Open. No, Closed.

Metro Nashville Public Schools just announced schools will be closed on August 21, 2017. File_000 (4)Yay, you say? Not so fast, my friends. Last month, the school board decided to keep schools open on August 21, the day of the solar eclipse, known as the Great American Eclipse.

Nashville is the largest American city in the total path of the historic scientific wonder during which the moon covers the sun. And middle Tennesseeans, especially those of us in Nashville, will benefit from the majesty of the rare phenomenon. Yes, we are all agog about the total eclipse of the sun (think Little Shop of Horrors) and school leaders have been preparing to capitalize on this rare learning opportunity.

Unfortunately, we’re having some trouble making and sticking with decisions. The original 2017-18 schools calendar  called for closed schools on August 21. Then, after carefully thinking about children’s safety, the administration believed it best to keep schools open and the school board voted in favor of the recommendation. Today, in an interesting turn of events and after additional careful consideration of children’s safety (wait, what?) the school board has voted to close schools on August 21. Again.

I’m Sorry, What Was That?

dontblinkSo, my Blink moment was disbelief wrapped in anger. I’ve since talked myself down from that initial feeling because how can I justify the anger when I don’t have a child in the system? Yet, I believe our leaders MUST stand by a decision and volleying our families’ lives is insensitive at best and downright disrespectful at worst.

Also, will children in a mostly poor school district be safer at home?

I suspect this is the work of teachers protesting behind the scenes. They certainly have a right to do so. But the babies, though…

Turns out my Blink moment was the right response after all. Our leaders are responsible for 88,000 families who don’t have the resources to navigate a series of ill-advised decisions. Maybe the district should have honored their Blink moment by sticking with the first decision.

As always, stay woke because decisions that affect your lives happen in a blink.

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.

Nashville’s Prosperity Rests on Backs of Unhoused, Over-Jailed, and Undereducated

In recent years, Nashville has been at the top of many lists: friendliest, best music life, growing food scene, and one of the best places to live and work. Yes, from the looks of it, Nashville is the place to be, the It City (another list); the kind of place big cities want to emulate and small towns want to become. Thanks to these lists Nashville’s welcome mat is worn to shreds from the 100 relocations per day.

But a stroll out to the margins and one is smacked with the reality of people and places in the shadows that fail to make it the glossy pages.

In early April, Metro Social Services released its annual Community Needs Evaluation to show people a city they might never see otherwise. The 200-page report is a shocking revelation of the underbelly of the Nashville we see on TV and in magazines. If a city is only as good as it’s weakest population, Nashville has serious work to do.

Nashville, the Beautiful

File_000Entering the core of Nashville, one can’t help but take in the breathtaking skyline with the Batman Building at its peak surrounded by dozens of cranes signifying growth, hope. But below the cranes in the area immediately surrounding the core, the flags of poverty are impossible to avoid.

We know poverty does not discriminate, but people of color are suffering disproportionately and the city has been successful concealing these exemptions from prosperity.

The greatest barriers to Nashville’s promised land for too many of its residents are housing, mass incarceration, and failure to an excellent education to every child.

Housing Crisis

Nashville is the sixth-fastest gentrifying city in the nation and 12.9% of its families live in poverty, which is higher than both state and national averages. As a result, the city suffers under the weight of an affordable housing crisis (better known as a “shortage”) forcing families to pay higher rents or experience varying degrees of homelessness.

In the Grassroots Community Survey provided in the Metro Social Services report, nearly 60% of respondents believe the greatest gap between services offered and services needed was housing. This result is not surprising when the median gross rent is $924 attached to an ever-decreasing supply and burgeoning demand. Meanwhile, the vast majority of renters are people of color who also tend to earn significantly less.

The family that spends 30% or more of its income in housing expenses is cost burdened which includes nearly 45,000 households earning under $35,000. Not to mention approximately 25,000 of those families spend 50% or more on housing expenses. These families become nomadic, moving often in search of cheaper rent, sacrificing their children’s educational attainment, safety, and proximity to social services.

Incarceration

File_000 (2)We’ve become comfortable with using “school-to-prison pipeline” to label our society’s fascination with throwing the book at black men and women for the smallest infractions. At the Metro Social Services report release, public defender Dawn Deaner aptly called it the “birth to prison” pipeline. It certainly looks that way. This culture of incarceration is not unique to Nashville but in no way is the “it city” exempt.

In Tennessee, 43% of the felony population is Black, a group that makes up 16% of the state’s population. Though unable to find actual data on Nashville’s incarceration stats, all one has to do is look to local media to get an idea of who is being locked up at an alarming rate.

Part of the problem of mass incarceration is that it negatively impacts other areas such as family strength, employment, earning potential, healthy communities, and children’s educational attainment.

Education

img_0993Yes, education is the civil rights issue of our time, but there’s no time to wait for everyone to agree to disagree. While teachers fight for respect, unions strike for salaries, ed reformers battle for validation, and parent’s scrap to be heard, children’s educational possibilities are circling the drain.

In 2016, only 11 percent of Nashville’s students were college-ready and only 34 percent of 3rd graders could read at grade level. At an event announcing the launch of a new literacy initiative in March, Nashville’s Mayor Megan Barry said, “Reading at grade level is a major indicator for a child’s academic success, and a child’s academic success is a strong indicator for the future of Nashville.”

Unfortunately, literacy is not the worst of the issues within Nashville’s schools. Around the country, schools are plagued by the dysfunction of the communities around them. Education is the lone institution where every societal ill gathers under one roof, turning schools into social service centers while trying to be high-achieving places of learning.

Children take to school the situations in which they live. Metro Schools’ poverty rate is more than 70 percent and we’ve established a few of the issues within our disenfranchised populations. In addition to the lack of affordable housing and mass incarceration, our schools must also work with high student mobility, food insecurity, mental and physical illnesses, acculturating new Americans, and abused children—just to list a few.

The Great Paradox

File_000 (1)Is it possible for Nashville to be one of the greatest cities in the United States when its marginalized citizens are not only becoming more vulnerable, but increasing in number? Our city is experiencing the largest apartment construction in America while our homelessness population spiked by 10 percent in 2016 – the 6th largest increase in the nation.

We have nationally ranked high performing magnet schools and schools where 85% of children struggle to read at grade level. The city is a virtual revolving door, welcoming new thousands of new residents per month while rolling out the undesirables to jails and other counties.

Don’t misunderstand me, these issues are not being completely ignored.  For instance, the Barnes Housing Fund and literacy initiative created by Mayor Barry are valiant efforts to mitigate affordable housing and reading deficiencies. Schools are working more intentionally with discipline in an effort to dismantle to the school-to-prison pipeline and programs can be found around the county to help with recidivism and inmate education. Finally, Metro Schools’ openness to offering non-traditional options (charters, alternative graduation and curriculum programs) has been good for students.

Something’s Amiss

Urgency. My frustration and impatience are at a tipping point because of my daily interaction with the other side of Nashville where many of my loved ones reside. The baby whose brilliance is scheduled to be extinguished by a list of odds experts are sure he can’t surmount. A close family member who fell on hard times and cannot find housing. The cousin who has spent his entire adult life caught up in the web of the criminal justice system creating a nearly impossible situation for his children and parents.

I wish I had the salve to quickly heal the ails of the marginalized and march them toward the middle. I wish Nashville’s greatness was felt by all of its citizens. I wish decisions were fueled by the same urgency and compassion when considering the fate of family member. I wish every school offered a nationally ranked education. I wish…

 

ESSA: From Hiding Black Students to Making Them Disappear

Tennessee schools might be “hiding dropouts” and gaming the accountability system. That’s the finding of a recent report by the data-centric journalism group ProPublica. The report, while focused mostly on Florida, suggests schools all over the country (again, possibly in TN) may be pushing low-performing students, many of whom are black, into “alternative schools,” as a way of preventing their low test scores and graduation rates from dragging down the average.

But the potential side effect is even more disturbing. Thanks to the wording in the new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, these students, who are mostly black young men, don’t need to be counted at all. We can disappear them from our state’s accountability system with no questions asked.

Alternative schools aren’t necessarily bad. They were originally created to help students who have behavioral issues, or who just don’t do well in a traditional system–some students really do need an alternative pathway. But if the motive for transferring any of these students is to put on a front, and allow schools to act like they’re doing a better job helping kids then they actually are, then that’s a problem.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot we still don’t know. There’s not enough data in the report to say whether or not it’s happening in Tennessee, though they do flag Nashville as a place that is of concern. But we’ve seen this kind of thing come up before. It was just a little over a year ago when a group of teachers raised concerns that students were being put into credit recovery programs so they would not take year end tests, which beefed-up the district’s overall testing performance. A student also filed suit (now dismissed) based on the same allegations.

So it’s worth raising the question: Is there something fishy going on in Nashville schools?

While I am not interested in stirring up a bee’s nest about the testing behavior in Nashville, I can’t help but be concerned. I can’t help but wonder if someone’s trying to pull the wool over my eyes. Or if the state is creating an environment where that’s easier to do.

Under the Every Student Succeeds Act, states have unbelievable latitude in the definition of a school. Tennessee’s plan takes advantage of that flexibility and explicitly says in its state plan that we won’t hold ourselves accountable for alternative schools:

“ESSA requires states to meaningfully differentiate public schools on an annual basis. Tennessee will include all public schools within this framework, excluding schools that only serve K–2 students, or adult high schools, or schools that only serve students with special needs and/or disabilities, or alternative schools, or CTE schools.”

I see two problems with this. First, ESSA gives states authority to allow districts the freedom to create warehouses specifically for hiding marginal to poor performing students — free from accountability. Second, and the most chilling issue, is the notion that the students most likely to be hidden under the ESSA provision are black students in general, and young black men, in particular.

What Gets Measured, Gets Done

Based on 2015 student data, nearly every student sent to a Nashville alternative school was black. Under ESSA, students enrolled in alternative schools will not be counted. That means it’s possible that within a couple of years, we could see larger swaths of our black students dropping off the radar for states. They won’t be in schools where the state will ever try to intervene. They won’t be considered when we talk about the academic progress of black students, and they won’t be celebrated when they do make progress. Conceivably, in two years, we could experience large swaths of black males missing from the state’s accountability framework.

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For me, there’s no obvious reason why we wouldn’t count these kids. Don’t they matter too? Yet federal law allows it and states like Tennessee, and many others, are all-too-happy to jump on board. Tennessee never explains in their state plan why it’s okay. That worries me. I worry that we’re building a system that creates a big dark hiding place for certain kids so schools can keep their reputations up and keep kids who probably need our attention the most out of sight and out of mind.

 

It’s Charter School Season in Nashville and You’d Better Watch Your Back

Or perhaps I should say, GET OUT. The political landscape gets scary around the time charter organizations submit their proposals to operate in Nashville. So, it’s not surprising to see the attacks launch a month before the application deadline. What’s troubling, though, is how charter haters are doing it.

The tactics are well-timed, comprehensively planned, and merciless, which would be just fine if the anti-charter people were attacking issues instead of people. It’s the most troubling thing in education I’ve ever witnessed. It seems we are held hostage by a few, Nashville’s tight little family, who are allowed to run roughshod over desperate families by shredding the leaders of schools that seek to fill a need in the community. The tragedy is that many recognize the ruthlessness and do nothing out of fear or silent consent. Or both.

Rules for Radicals

Since entering the throes of charter school season, I have been reminded of Saul Alinsky’s little book called Rules for Radicals, written in 1971. Alinsky was a mastermind at community organizing, deploying tactics with little to no regard for ethics. As a matter of fact, he argued “the most unethical of all means is the non-use of any means.” Everything is fair game, by any means necessary.

It is known that Hillary Clinton wrote about Rules for her senior thesis upon graduating from Wellesley. There are also rumors linking President Obama to Alinsky’s rules. I was introduced to Saul Alinsky as an undergrad, but was so stunned by his mercilessness I completely blocked it out. Since venturing onto the ed reform battlefield, I recognize the Rules and wonder if there is a secret society of anti-charter Alinsky-ites who are dead set on taking out charter leaders by any means necessary.

“Pick a Target, Freeze It, Personalize It, Polarize It”

‘Pick a target, freeze, personalize and polarize’ is far down Alinsky’s list, but it happens to be the one that is most visible in Nashville. In 2015, John Little, a charter school advocate, went head-to-head with school board member Will Pinkston in an epic battle on Facebook. John was leading a mayoral campaign at the time, and for reasons that still elude me, was pounced upon by Pinkston—who at some point had supposedly been his friend.

It got ugly, y’all. We all watched Pinkston unleash personal attacks and served up private information about John. We watched while John’s years of hard work take hit after hit by a privileged elected official with tons of political capital on a mission to erase him.
Now, two years later, the target is Shaka Mitchell, leader of two Rocketship charter schools in Nashville. It seems this all began when Rocketship applied to open a third Nashville public school last year. After the school board denied the application, Mitchell and his team appealed and were denied a second time. So Mitchell took his case to the state board of education, but received a third denial.

Wait… Rewind… Let’s not forget the 2013 bloody battles on Twitter and Facebook between Pinkston and Ravi Gupta, founder of the Nashville Prep charter school. Legendary.

Fair enough, some people don’t want more charters. But just because these school leaders want to reach more kids and families, that shouldn’t make them a target for trolling and personal attacks.

Not to Play the Race Card, But…

Maybe I’ve experienced too many stories as of late about the black man in America. The movie “Get Out” and the documentary “I Am Not Your Negro” are at the top of the list. The killing of Jocques Clemmons in East Nashville running from Nashville police also comes to mind. Or maybe it’s because I’m married to one and gave birth to another. But I see a disturbing pattern in this targeting men of color, in general, and black men, in particular.

Hey, maybe it has little to do with the fact John and Shaka are black males. To be honest, I hope like hell I’m wrong about it. But here’s what I know, what I’ve seen countless times—Nashville’s black voices again are silent or silenced. And a brilliant political strategist like Pinkston understands this and, no doubt, uses it to his advantage. After all, “ridicule is man’s most potent weapon” (yes, Alinsky). And those who lack loud representation are positioned to be the perfect scapegoats for a political axe-grinding.

‘Silence is Betrayal’

Conventional wisdom says never go to a gunfight with a knife. I suppose the safe thing would be to keep my thoughts to myself. Eighty-six the rabble-rousing. But check this: I’ve spent my entire adult life silently sitting on the sidelines watching injustices slide; so damn scared, too scared to breathe. I’ve been making myself too invisible to be someone’s target. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “there comes a time when silence is betrayal.”

So, it’s charter school season and the games have begun. If you’re not against them, you’re with them. Take cover.

Nashville Has Been Losing Blacks to Atlanta for Decades and It Must Stop

Maybe it’s because of cheering the tragic Falcons in Sunday’s Super Bowl 51. Maybe it’s because I just discovered my new favorite education blog, EdLANTA. Whatever it is, the events of the past week have forced this lifelong Nashvillian to unpack my connection to and numerous networks within the city of Atlanta and think about the mass exodus to Atlanta from Nashville.

That’s right, every day hundreds from all over the country choose Atlanta. Relocating there in droves as they have been for decades. Especially Nashvillians. I personally moved my aunt and baby sister there. My best friend of 36 years also found the allure too strong to ignore. 

So, I can’t help but mourn the loss (personal and otherwise) of thousands of upwardly mobile, creative black Nashvillians and the never-to-be realized return on investment as our schools pour into an unofficial talent pipeline to Atlanta. What’s up with that?

Atlanta vs. Nashville

I suppose the connection shouldn’t be a surprise, since the cities have so much in common. Though the city of Atlanta boasts only 450,000 residents, the metro area is a staggering 5.7 million—not your typical sleepy Southern city.

Similarly, Nashville is exploding with nearly 700,000 residents in the city and an additional 1.1 million in the surrounding area. At this point, we’re welcoming 85 newcomers per day. What can I say, the “creative class” loves this place. (No, I didn’t just smirk when I said that.)

Atlanta was always known for its accessible cost of living, but in the past decade it has become one of the most expensive major cities in the United States. But let’s be honest, Nashville is suffering the same fate. Gentrification is rampant, squeezing out Nashville’s most vulnerable with more ridiculously expensive housing and impossible traffic hassles that are creating the need for regional transportation options that will translate to a shocking increase in cost of living. I can’t wait. (Yes, this time I did smirk.)

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Atlanta traffic – Picture by AJC
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Nashville traffic quickly catching up to Atlanta – Picture by The Tennessean

Why Is Everybody Leaving?

So what’s the real reason everyone’s headed down to the ATL? I’ll just say it: Atlanta is way Blacker than Nashville. Period. More than half the city (58%) is African American, compared to only a quarter of Nashvillians.

My childhood friend, Add Seymour, who works at Morehouse College in Atlanta, told me why he always knew he would eventually leave Nashville: “I needed a place that was much more progressive.”

He also made a good point: “It’s funny that a city that was so integral to the civil rights movement, home to a gazillion colleges and universities and the country and gospel music industries, wasn’t progressive, but it wasn’t.”

And then this: “I wanted to live in a place that was happening. I knew Atlanta was it. Full of Black people important to making things happen. You don’t see that in Nashville.”

I must admit, entering the city my first time and bombarded with images of black doctors and attorneys was both startling and incredibly comforting. I felt accepted in every store and neighborhood. The experience made such an impact that I remember with a smile 25 years later.

And as my friend Atlanta transplant TaTanisha Jackson Shumpert explained:

“Although, I am in the South, I feel that most of the people here get it. When I come back home, back to Atlanta, even from a short trip. I can breath. I literally feel like I have been holding my breath the entire time I was away and when I return I can breath again.”

Reverse Migration is a Thing

Apparently, the mass exodus of black people seeking identity vindication is not unique to Nashville. There is also a major movement of blacks from North to South reversing the trend started by blacks during Jim Crow and continuing through the end of the civil rights era. Today, the black middle class is moving South, many to Atlanta, in search of safety, financial promise, and cultural reattachment.

Alternately, my little sister, 32 year old Amber North, when upon graduating from college in Kentucky, was eager to move to the big city because “Atlanta is one of the most diverse and progressive cities in the country.” Adding that the major factor was “to live in a city where being black is the majority.”

Nashville, despite the It City status and its newest distinction as U.S. News and World Report’s 13th best cities to live, still eludes its black creative class. I love my city, but I get it. There are few images and symbols around the city that ensure blacks feel appreciated, part of the city’s movement. Nashville Scene writer Betsy Phillips wrote in a ThinkProgress piece:

“Nashville is an “It City,” a great, money-making fantasy – for white people with expendable income. The culture we’re commercializing is from white people for white people.”

Maybe that’s why it’s not a problem for me to hit the road at a moment’s notice. I’m just 267 miles away from soul-saving cultural appreciation.

What’s The Key To Keeping Us Here?  The Children.

There is no shortage of Nashvillians willing to make the trip to simply play. My Facebook timeline is evidence of fellow city slickers sliding south for weekends filled with shopping, nightclubbing, and civil rights memorial hopping; it’s a city that does a great job satisfying the culturally starved.

It’s also a city that is greatly benefitting from black tax dollars sorely needed for Nashville’s schools. Instead of modeling the reinvestment of dollars into the community that made us, we are grooming another generation of Atlanta transplants. Further, we fail to elect, hire, and appoint in proportion to our demographics.

Black children go to schools where 75% of teachers are white. And while a teacher’s race is not a major determinant of student success, models of success matter. So, when 85% of the police force is white and a child sees only blacks in handcuffs, the messaging is near fatal. Our children need us here and our leaders must want to keep us here.

If we are to be a city of authentic inclusion, even as we’ve become a great place to live for the largest Hispanic population in the state as well as the largest Kurdish population in the United States, we must care enough to make Nashville a haven for its black residents, too.

If it matters. Those of us who have chosen to stay believe it does.