It’s Not the Stuff of Hollywood, But the Nashville I Know and Love Deserves Red Carpet Treatment

We are all guilty of intensely attaching our attention to the national event of the day. Particularly, in the Trump era. While we are waiting for the next presidential foible, life is on the move. Unfortunately, human suffering doesn’t go on holiday while we are busy devising the best country-saving strategy.

While perfectly innocent citizens were being detained across the country in a colossally disorganized execution of an executive order, Nashville’s weeklong nightmare was just beginning.

Uneasy Sunday Morning

It started Sunday morning, January 29, 2017 with news of the shooting death of 18 year old JaVonte Robinson and critically injured 20 year old Roy Hunter (Bre’v), son of Nashville School Board member Tyese Hunter. Since the shooting, three 16 year old males have been taken into custody. That’s a total of five lives and families forever changed by this tragedy that, quite simply, didn’t have to happen as my friend Miranda Christy wrote about earlier this week.

On a lighter note, Ms. Hunter made a brief social media appearance to share the good news of her son’s progress. Godspeed.

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Unfortunately, There’s More

17952792_1486079387-295_funddescriptionOn the morning of Tuesday, January 31 we received news of a collision involving two Antioch High School students headed to school. The accident claimed the lives of the 44 year old driver of the other car and the passenger en route to class. The Antioch High School student driver was unharmed, but tragically, passenger 15 year old Andrea was trapped in the car and burnt beyond recognition. (That was difficult to type) Again, so many lives drastically changed. Prayers.

Click here for the Go Fund Me account to assist with Andrea’s funeral expenses.

 

And If That Wasn’t Enough

On the morning of Thursday, February 2, Nashville awoke to the news of distraught 40 year old Juli Glisson heading to the lake with intent to commit suicide. As per usual, Nashville’s finest heroically answered the call to save a fellow Nashvillian. Officers Craig, Diamond, and Mumaw made it to the boat ramp where the woman was preparing to drive into the Cumberland River.

The three heroes, failing to convince Glisson to get out of the car, decided to take action. Officer Craig from the passenger side worked to keep her from putting the car into gear while Officers Mumaw and Diamond were on the driver’s side when Mumaw opened the door prompting Glisson to hit drive and forcing the officers into the cold, turbulent waters.

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Eric Mumaw, Hero

We sat on pins and needles with the hope that comes with rescue efforts, but it changed as quickly as it happened. Officer Craig made it to land safely. Officer Diamond, who at one point had a grip on Officer Mumaw’s hand, also hit land safely –as did Ms. Glisson. Sadly, Officer Eric Mumaw’s body was recovered just as Nashville’s work day began. Rest in peace.

 

 

Not to Worry, We Will Be Alright

Here’s the thing: Nashvillians love Nashvillians. Even as we ‘natives’ become increasingly rare and thousands of creative millennials from across the world make this their home, remnants of small town unity can be spotted and are generally illuminated in times like these. Times like the 1,000 year flood of 2010. Beside the definition of our sister’s keeper, there’d be a picture of the Nashville skyline.

So, I have no doubt that JaVonte’ Robinson’s family is receiving mad love from across the city. The same for Roy Hunter. The Go Fund Me Account for Andrea will reach its goal. Officers Craig and Diamond will be blessed with department love and care and the community they have so selflessly served will offer a lifetime of appreciation in a million ways.

The Ultimate Sacrifice Won’t Too Soon Be Forgotten

Officer Eric Mumaw will forever be our hero. As I write, there is a movement afoot to rename the park where Officer Mumaw made the ultimate sacrifice. I’m also willing to bet the good officer’s family will want for nothing for their remaining days. My gratitude overflows.

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It’s not the stuff of table reads and Emmy-seeking performances. It’s the real Nashville, with its blemishes and beauty marks. It’s my Nashville and your Nashville and, like always, we will be alright.

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Best of 2016 in Nashville Education: #4 Amy Frogge, School Board Member


This woman is a force. And flanked by a force, to boot!
First, I must acknowledge my personal admiration for Amy. Our relationship started out as a working one and since my leaving Metro Schools, it continues as one of mutual respect (I think). Because while our platforms on education are as different as our race and sometimes as distant as her west of Nashville suburb from my east of Nashville suburb, we both have hearts for children (and animals).

I have sort of tripped into the ed reform world where Amy is not a friend and a world about which she speaks and writes with severity. Still, she stands for something greater than herself and fights fiercely for it, hence, Amy’s Army, the scores of supporters who helped her take the school board race.

Our passions will, no doubt, continue to collide, but, I got nothing but love and respect for the wife, mother of two, and ardent animal lover. Soldier on!

Shouldn’t Parents Get a Say Before School Board Blocks Charter Schools?

According to the school board agenda for this week’s meeting, they are voting on a moratorium of any future charter schools in Nashville.

Never mind the political agendas at work behind this resolution. The bigger problem is that the agenda from last week gave no notice to the public about the appearance of the resolution. And the text of the resolution itself didn’t appear until a few hours ago.

Nashville education blogger Zack Barnes rightfully points out the lack of public transparency here and questions the motives of the resolution’s author (ahem, Will Pinkston, I may have mentioned him before). While Miranda Christy proclaims in the Tennessean that the resolution lacked adequate public notice.

And who is this “public” that deserves notice anyway? Parents and families, that’s who. The ones who need more and better public school options for their kids. The kind of public schools that can sometimes be provided by high-quality charter school operators.

What’s Really Going On

Obviously I agree with Zack and Miranda, the public needs a chance to be part of the democratic process. But I also know how the sausage is made.

See, I used to work at the district, and I’ve been party to publishing these school board agendas myself. Typically, there are two reasons an agenda item would show up this late. Usually it’s innocent—there’s just a bureaucratic maze that can take time to navigate, getting all the right signatures and sign-offs. Or sometimes, also innocently, an item of urgency springs up and is time-sensitive; requiring immediate board approval.

But another, more rare but insidious reason for a resolution to pop up without notice is simply to avoid pushback and scrutiny.

My sausage-maker’s experience tells me that’s what’s going on here.

But whatever the reason, parents must be part of the discussion. And that means taking adequate time and the proper steps to ensure they are.

A resolution to halt charter schools, some of which could provide needed public options to Black and Brown families in MNPS, is a big deal. Parents deserve to be at the table.

Nashville 2016 School Board Candidates Lose the Battle, Win the War: Miranda Christy

Permission granted to Volume and Light. Originally posted on Facebook.


Friends,

 On August 3rd, the day before our local election, a document was filed alleging that I, three other candidates for school board, and Stand for Children violated campaign finance laws. I have said that the document was without merit since the day it was filed and today, the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance reached the same conclusion and dismissed the complaint.

 I’m sharing here the final portion of the sworn statement I submitted in connection with this proceeding because I remain (1) concerned that underhanded political tactics may have a chilling effect on the willingness of smart, qualified, and service-oriented people to run for office in this city, and (2) resolved to do what I can to keep this from happening to anyone else.


Many of you watched my campaign and asked how and why a school board election could get so nasty. While I am happy to discuss those questions, I’d rather use this moment to express my deep appreciation to you – my friends and colleagues – for the support, understanding, and encouragement I’ve received throughout this process – it’s meant more than you know.

 This year has been a series of tests – and not only did I pass them all, I also managed to end up with more friends and wisdom than I had 12 months ago.

 I wouldn’t change a thing.

❤️

Teachers’ Union is the Real MVP at School Board Meeting

The Metropolitan Nashville Board of Education is making big statements on behalf of the local teachers’ union these days. At Tuesday night’s business meeting, the group of nine voted unanimously on several key items, chief among them are establishment of collaborative conferencing and resolution to oppose use of TCAP in 2016-17 teacher evaluations.

Collaborative Conferencing

For decades, MNPS staff and teacher union reps battled it out in what was known as  “negotiations,” but in 2011 the GOP-controlled Tennessee legislature flipped the script by eliminating The Education Professional Negotiations Act and replaced it with The Professional Educators Collaborative Conferencing Act.

Collaborative conferencing severely minimizes the union’s menu of items from which to negotiate, putting a cap on their long-held power. I’m guessing the items removed that stings the most are differentiated pay and staffing decisions. But something is better than nothing– which is what Nashville teachers had their disposal prior to Tuesday’s meeting.

Teacher Evaluations Sans Student Achievement

Tennessee messed up “bigly” (we’re a red state, so…). Our schools experienced a huge dust-up last winter with the rollout of the new testing system. Dust-up is generous, it was an outright failure. Ironically, Tennessee Department of Education officials traversed the state for months campaigning for the new test tragically named TNReady. It wasn’t ready.

Ultimately, blame was placed on vendor Measurement, Inc., but TNDOE commish Candace McQueen accepted responsibility, sent them packing, and awarded accountability waivers to TN districts for 2015-16.

Fast forward to the current school year with new vendor Questar hired July 2016 and testing in progress as I write this post. Hence, the Nashville board’s resolution.

The board voted on a resolution to oppose the use of 2016-17 TCAP data as part of teacher evaluations. As mentioned above, the TN commish granted waivers for 2015-16. There are a couple of things sitting quite uncomfortably with me.

First, someone has to be accountable for student outcomes. The resolution’s language is exceedingly pro-adult with no source tapped to take responsibility. We cannot relax accountability, not now, not ever.

Second, requesting a waiver for a second year doesn’t say sense of urgency. As I have said before, children do not have the luxury of time, but as mentioned above the resolution is in no way about them.

So, after winning a hard-fought school board election, the fruit of the local union’s labor is ready for harvest.

 

 

 

 

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. 

YOU BE THE JUDGE 

mad as hell #3 (blog updated after each modern day lynching) 

Blog originally posted August 2016.

12/6/16 UPDATE:


#WalterScott 

After a routine traffic stop Walter Scott, fearing for his life, fled and the monster (policeman Michael Slager) shoots the unarmed man five times in the back. In the back. All caught on tape by a random passerby. 

Even with the video as evidence, the 11 white women and men and one black male declared a mistrial. 

History repeats itself. How many lynchers were charged for senselessly, callously hanging black people?

9/20/16 UPDATE:

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Quoting the fearless Pastor John Faison, Sr. “They might as well use ropes.”

There is no need to go through the painstaking process of creating a new post about our nation’s love affair with murdering black men.

I’ll just add Terence Crutcher and Tyre King to this existing post.

Terence’s murder comes complete with video. I’m told the video shows a female cop shooting the unarmed man in cold blood and after nearly two minutes CPR is administered to no avail.

Tyre was 13 years old.  The end.

Another add: I refuse to watch any of the video’s. I refuse to become desensitized. Every murder needs to shock our systems, interrupt our sleep, and compromise our appetites.


I started this post a few days after the murders of Philando Castille and Alton Sterling. Since then police have been murdered in Dallas and Louisiana and the Nashville School Board elections are off the rails. I’ve spent some time unpacking my mental pairing of the murders and the education discussion in this city.  What’s the connection?  I once believed education was the great equalizer and recent events have not only challenged me but changed me.  But I digress…


If you don’t go to sleep and wake up with your heart in your throat realizing that your place in this society is becoming more and more opaque with a fade to nothingness – congratu-freaking-lations. I’m not kidding, be glad to be free from such sadness.

I’m not alone in this weird place.  This psychological beat down into submission, hopelessness.  For me, it started more than a week ago when I awoke early one Saturday morning to accusations on Twitter that led to a tweet-a-tweet with the designated education Twitterazzi in Nashville.  I was so troubled by the exchange that it took me back nearly twenty years ago when I was working for the Nashville Chamber of Commerce when an African American gentleman from up north was visiting for a conference and unabashedly called out his Southern brethren.  I will never forget his observation of African Americans in Nashville. “You guys are so scared!  You’re scared to talk and even the way you walk says you’re submissive.”

The gentleman’s harsh observation played over and over in my head as I read the commentary to my tweet. My crime was a comment on a picture of Memphis parents dressed in orange t-shirts at a meeting in what looked like a gymnasium. “I. Love. It.” caused a firestorm of tweets accusing me of supporting bad policy for children.  I respond that the picture was “a beautiful thing” which, in turn, set in motion a series of “helpful” advice.  In a sincere effort to usher me to see the error of my ways, the nice people explained that some of us need help forming opinions – like helping a child, they said.   I accused them of being “paternalistic” and, true to form, it was suggested that I didn’t mean to use that word; that maybe I meant something else. Though I am still angry, I am not interested in calling them out, but rather illuminate their social and political entitlement and the clear disparaging of, well, me.  I dared to celebrate an image they fear and are fighting like hell to keep out of their precious city.

As Nashville has become more gentrified and education choices are vilified, the man from up north’s diagnosis rings true still and promises to worsen.  I believe we are expected to act a certain way and, dutifully, fall in line. How many African Americans in Nashville do you see speaking out on divisive issues such as charter schools? Thousands of parents have chosen to send their children these schools yet Nashville’s political elite is hostile to such choices, creating guilt and fear in parents. So we keep quiet for fear of being bullied and further maligned (see Vesia). We are forced to choose a side and then blasted if a even a spot of charter acceptance is detected. Most of us are simply ill-equipped for the fight – so we remain politically and socially SHACKLED. The use of fear and distrust as instruments of control is as old as, well, see Willie Lynch.

Speaking of shackles. Nothing says institutionalized shackles better than being charged with your own murder. Alton Sterling wouldn’t be dead if… Philando Castile shouldn’t have… Sandra Bland probably… Tamir Rice was only 12, but… Trayvon … Freddie…

Fading to nothingness.