Tonight the Metropolitan Nashville School Board and Dr. Jesse Register met in a town hall meeting with the parents of East Nashville United and East Nashville Believes, along with many local politicians. Among those present at the East Side Community Center were Jeff Yarbro, new District 21 senator; Megan Barry, mayoral candidate, Mike Stewart, District 52 representative, Bill Beck, new District 51 representative, Anthony Davis, Metro Councilman from East Nashville, and Charles Robert Bone, mayoral candidate. It was good to see so many authority figures listening to ordinary people.
The ordinary people had a great deal to say. The East Nashville United group has used Freedom of Information requests to get MNPS correspondence and emails. Apparently, these documents contained many redactions, and some documents were withheld, but enough was available to show that MNPS had planned out a major new program with NO parent knowledge or input. Even elected school board members claimed ignorance.
Not unnaturally, there was a great deal of contention, and voices were raised. Some, including the Stratford High School principal, felt that Dr. Register was being unfairly attacked by the East Nashville United spokesman. The most I could get out of the discussion was that Dr. Register regretted moving so hastily but still felt impelled to recommend some changes to the Board on December 1. He talked movingly of providing school choice to parents who could not provide their own children’s transportation, and Board Member Elissa Kim spoke of her efforts to recruit great teachers from all over the country.
More important to me was the question Dr. Register brushed aside. Jay Sanders, a parent at Inglewood School, asked why Inglewood was reduced to recruiting from house to house with nothing but postcards to hand out. Kipp, the charter school company that may take the school over, has posters and booklets available in community centers to sell children on the joys of charters. This is the horrible unfairness in making public schools compete with deep-pocketed charter corporations. Yes, Dr. Register wants ALL schools to be great – right.
I also noted that Ms. Kim said nothing about the types of contracts she would be offering to GREAT teachers. Teacher pay, retirement, and benefits have been sore subjects with Tennessee teachers of late. Also, there was considerable obfuscation about whether a charter school would keep all a school’s students when they take over.
I was glad to see such an outpouring of emotion from Nashville parents. We will need to continue this level of engagement over the coming years.