To My Beloved School District: It’s Time We Have a ‘Come to Jesus’

Here’s what’s not going to happen: we are not about to be that school district. You know that district that shirks its responsibility for weaknesses by conjuring up ridiculous excuses, assigning blame, and withholding responses?

So far, the district has masterfully tap-danced around issues of water quality, dismal test scores, and sexual assaults. It’s time to stop dancing. These are mammoth issues that must be addressed proactively and earnestly.

Water is Life

I am dedicating this post to the two-year-old water quality issue. For as long as I’ve been in and around Metro Schools, I’ve never known the district to drag its feet on a matter that could harm the health of students. According to reports from NewsChannel 5 investigative reporter Phil Williams, many schools have had and still have dangerous amounts of lead in the water. This after the school district celebrated the fact they lead the state in testing for lead in the water.

Williams has expended an unbelievable amount of time on this issue and if I was still working at MNPS I’d be miffed at his unrelenting meddling. Still, his most recent report, Some MNPS Students Still Drinking Lead Contaminated Water, is revealing in that it exposes a school district with misplaced priorities. Even though the district tested fountains in every school, there are still schools with unsafe levels of lead in the water. Parents were not informed and, worse, our babies are still drinking the water.

So much time is spent on charging charter schools with taking money from traditional public schools, efforts to curb marketing to families, disputing building agreements, downplaying stellar testing results, attacking school leaders, and, yes, having fake parents. Meanwhile, a sort of environmental racism and classism is taking place in schools with the most poverty and children and color.

Y’all gotta stop playing with our kids, man.

Shout out to Phil Williams and blogger Thomas Weber for sticking with this story. Also, mad love to another MNPS parent who was so outraged she created a Facebook page Get the Lead Out dedicated to informing families about water quality issues in our schools.

Where I’ve been willing to give the district a pass, Weber always been very clear about the current administration’s handling of certain issues, water quality leading the list. I don’t regret giving the administration time to get acclimated to their new digs. but that grace period has long since passed.

Check out Weber’s most recent post No, The Water At MNPS Is Not Safe.

MNPS took the commendable action of having the water tested in its oldest buildings 2 years ago. Predictably, results came back that showed high levels of lead in several of our older schools. Schools that are made up of children from immigrant and impoverished homes. Schools like my children’s school.

Instead of taking these numbers, acknowledging the problems, and rectifying them, the district chose to issue a press release that disclosed none of the results and served as a congratulatory letter for merely testing the water. When they were challenged on the results and the lack of action, they issued another statement that claimed “The drinking water in the district’s oldest buildings meet all federal and state lead drinking water standards.” Sounds great, huh?

For Dr. Joseph It’s All Tricks No Treats

Dr. Joseph is a wanted man. Yet, he’s making decisions befitting someone who has the luxury of privilege and second chances. Still, to my knowledge, no high-ranking government official in Nashville has been so solidly targeted. Is it charters? Collective bargaining? Did he tick off a board member? All of the above?

There are so many questions about the barrage of media attacks on Dr. Joseph. Though one thing is certain, there’s a direct pipeline from the district to the media documenting his every move, to wit, NewsChannel5 investigative reporter Phil Williams has built an entire series around the already embattled director. 

At first, I was incensed that media can be so easily lured into someone’s or something’s web spun specifically to annihilate Dr. Joseph’s job. I’ve since redirected my ire towards the spider(s); and not the superhero kind.

Disclosure: this blog is NOT a Dr. Joseph fan club platform – even though I’ve dedicated two other posts the man (here and here). It is, however, a space to spotlight injustices and I believe the treatment of our city’s new director falls squarely into that category. 

If you need a recap, see the unprecedented list of negative stories about Dr. Shawn Joseph in his first 122 days:

Here, WSMV and NewsChannel5 call out the director for hiring district workers to hang a picture in his home. Complete with emails. 

More from NewsChannel5 on Dr. Joseph’s directive to freeze all travel. 

Here again, NewsChannel5 blasts the director for contracts. 

And again… NewsChannel5 interviews board chair Anna Shepherd about the director’s spending. 

In this WSMV interview, the director on the job less than three months is forced to defend his hires. 

Diane Ravitch – witch hunt enough said. 

The Tennessean’s Frank Daniels (recently let go from his job in a string of Gannet layoffs) announced the end of Dr. Joseph’s honeymoon stage. I contend that he was never afforded one.