Battle for the board: Factions fight to elect Metro's next school board

Sunday, July 1, 2012 at 10:05pm

When word spread in April that Elissa Kim, an executive of Teach for America, was poised to launch a run for Metro school board, emails started to circulate from the city’s foremost charter enthusiasts. They were all abuzz, having found their contender.

“We have to make sure she wins!” John Eason, a longtime charter champion and board member of the Tennessee Charter Schools Association, wrote of Kim, one of three candidates challenging school board chair Gracie Porter in District 5. He called Kim a “remarkable candidate” and perhaps the “top person in the country” in teacher recruitment.

“This is a very rare opportunity to get an education reform star on our school board,” echoed investor Bill DeLoache, a trustee of the Joe C. Davis Foundation who chairs the board of the Tennessee Charter Incubator.

A few weeks later, DeLoache, Eason and Townes Duncan, managing partner of Solidus Company (who heads the board of SouthComm, parent company of The City Paper), filed paperwork for the Great Public Schools political action committee. The pro-charter PAC is assisting a trio of Metro school board candidates at a time when publicly financed, privately led charters are thriving in Davidson County, but still not to the level of the PAC’s liking.

“We would love to see the district actively recruit great charter operators rather than just sitting back to rule on whatever applicants happen to show up,” DeLoache told The City Paper of the PAC’s vision. He said he wishes the board would carry out a true “portfolio approach” to governance, focusing on high-quality schools regardless of provider — charter or district.

Besides Kim, Great Public Schools — its leaders have notable private school ties — has contributed financially to Jarod DeLozier, who is running in District 3, and Margaret Dolan, running in District 9. Dollar amounts won’t be clear until financial disclosures are turned in by July 10. The election for Metro’s five school board races is on Aug. 2, with early voting set to begin July 13. 

But the charter crowd has company this election cycle from two other political players also closely eyeing the direction of Metro’s nine-member school board: unions and the chamber, historically two competing forces. (Priorities of the latter often overlap with the charter coalition, while the district’s two biggest unions don’t always agree.)

“There’s lots of competing factions out there,” said Stephen Henry, president of the Metro Nashville Education Association, the local teachers union. MNEA has suffered declining membership in the one year following a state law that stripped its collective bargaining rights, though Henry said some 50 percent of Metro teachers still belong to his union. “We’re looking for those candidates who are focused on what’s best for students, the employees and the public school system. That’s more or less our litmus test.”

Unions, both teacher and support staff, and the chamber seem to be trending in opposition directions in terms of clout, elevating the stakes of the election.

The Service International Employees Union Local 205, on the heels of consecutive years of setbacks — the privatization of custodians being the most painful — would like to restore influence by electing board members willing to fight Director of Schools Jesse Register’s moves regarding support-staff workers. Meanwhile, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce is seeking to retain its sway on the board, having ramped up its involvement in public schools in recent years, most notably through the advancement of the Academies of Nashville, the district’s high school redesign, which relies on business partnerships with student coursework. Critics call the Academies “vocational education.”

“There’s some real opportunity to take the school system to a new level with the candidates who are running this summer,” said Michelle Lacewell, the chamber’s director of marketing and public relations. “Our involvement and the continuation of projects and programs like the Academies is probably going to be the extent of our influence. Our agenda is just academic results.”

These factions — charter backers, the unions and the chamber — have cast their visions during what many say is the most pivotal school board election in years, with an outcome that will include significant turnover.

With two sitting board members, Mark North and Kay Simmons, opting against re-election, and two others — Ed Kindall and Sharon Gentry — running against each other, the next school board is at minimum looking at three new members. Porter, the board chair, is in a competitive race against three challengers, increasing the possibility of four newly elected representatives in the nine-member board.

Chief among the new board’s tasks could be replacing Register, who arrived in Nashville in 2009. He’s now worn the director of schools’ cap in Metro for three and a half years, which happens to be the average span of service for superintendents in large urban school districts. His contract expires in 2015, while the newly elected board members will serve four-year terms until 2016.

August’s election comes as educators still wrestle with how to solve the so-called “achievement gap,” which runs deep in a Metro system where 75 percent of its students qualify for free and reduced lunches. Graduation and dropout rates have improved, but the district’s average ACT score of 18.1 score remains abysmal. Accordingly, Nashville’s middle and upper classes still routinely abandon MNPS for private academies. Vast challenges have attracted 17 candidates across the five seats.

Surveying the crop are people like Doug Collier, president of the SEIU Local 205, whose custodian-outsourcing setback in 2010 was followed this year by Register’s unilateral decision to undo a “memorandum of understanding” with support employees. He labeled Register an “anti-union director” who doesn’t seek advice. The school board hasn’t been there when SEIU needed it.

“If the current board and administration has been successful at anything at all, I think it’s been tearing the Nashville community apart,” Collier said, adding that problem goes beyond just SEIU’s concerns to “everything from charter schools to parent groups, to principals.”

Then there’s the frustration of the charter backers. If they needed a reminder of the importance of this election, it came Tuesday, when they watched the board vote 7-2 to defeat Great Hearts Academies, a charter proposal that came under fire for questions over the Phoenix-based organization’s commitment to diversity.

“I think it’s completely legitimate to consider whatever tradeoffs there may be between academic performance and diversity goals,” said DeLoache, the day after watching the Great Hearts vote go down. “But I think that consideration could be done in a much more thoughtful and constructive manner.”

Board candidates have discussed and debated the state of Metro schools — and the concerns of the district’s constituencies — at a series of forums. But in a low-turnout local election, winners could be determined more by door-knocking and identifying voters than stances. Deciphering the races requires individual breakdowns.

 

District 5: An incumbent feels heat

Gracie Porter is fighting for her board seat and feeling pressure from multiple directions. At last week’s District 5 candidates’ forum at Rosebank Elementary School — with a crowd of 200 watching — the board chair referred to “propaganda” that suggests she’s anti-charter.

In a follow-up interview with The City Paper, Porter explained it this way: “As I go door to door, I hear from individuals, and this is what they tell me. ‘I hear you are anti-charter schools.’ ”

“I am not against charter schools,” Porter affirmed. “I will say that very vividly as many times as I need to.”

Opening the door to such criticism, perhaps, was her initial vote in May to reject the expansion of KIPP Nashville, a charter group that operates in her district. She and seven other board members voted to approve KIPP’s new North Nashville middle school during last week’s appeals process.

But the anti-charter “propaganda” is coming while Porter has also lost a former ally: SEIU. During Porter’s initial campaign in 2006, SEIU played a pivotal role in her rout of home-school advocate Kay Brooks. This year, the union didn’t endorse any District 5 candidate, including Porter, who didn’t fight Register’s decision to end the “memorandum of understanding” policy. She defended the move as a director’s decision by law, not a board matter.

“There’s some great people in SEIU,” Porter said. “I don’t hold any hard feelings against that organization at all.”

A combination of these factors — and a well-financed opponent, Elissa Kim — has turned District 5 into a battleground. The district, at one time composed exclusively of East Nashville, now includes parts of North Nashville and the downtown core following redistricting. Porter’s most serious challenger appears to be Kim, executive vice president for recruitment and admissions at Teach for America. But candidates John Haubenreich, an attorney, and Erica Lanier, who heads Metro’s Parent Advisory Council, are also viable threats.

Kim, who joined TFA’s staff in 1999 after working as a teacher, said her entry into the race came from a “real passion for ensuring that kids really get a great shot in life.” Talking to voters, Kim said she senses frustration that the “system isn’t all it could be for all kids.”

“There’s a lot of positive response, honestly, a sense that, ‘Wait, we can solve this,’ ” Kim said. Despite her bid to unseat the board chair, Kim said she doesn’t think of her candidacy as “running against anything.”

Asked about her charter support, Kim took a step back. “This whole thing has just become about charters,” she observed. “It’s a little crazy to me. At the end of the day, all that matters is what makes schools great, regardless of their legal designation. I could care less whether it’s a charter, magnet or a traditional. What matters is the outcome.” Still, Kim said she believes the 2012 TCAP test results will reveal some Nashville charters have had “phenomenal success.” In which case, she said, “We need to learn from that.”

Haubenreich, a 29-year-old attorney at Neal & Harwell and former TFA teacher, is also the man behind Nashville Jefferson, a well-followed local education blog where he’s shown a keen eye for sometimes-thorny education policy. He said his candidacy “brings together” both the experience of teaching in an urban environment and his personal investment as the father of a young child. 

He rejects the notion that District 5 is a two-person race between Kim and Porter, and when it comes to change on the board, he said he’s looking for greater accountability. “I think the board has to work harder in asking tough questions and driving policy forward,” Haubenreich said. “Right now, I think the board has been content to sort of sign off on whatever Dr. Register wants to do — whether it’s good or not. And frankly, I think a lot of the things he’s done have been just fine.”

Lanier, who routinely attends school board meetings representing the parents’ advisory council, said her involvement in Metro schools began when she moved her oldest daughter from private to public schools. Making her pitch, she recites the word “ART,” which stands for bringing accountability, responsiveness and transparency to the board.

“What’s going to be key with the school board is they’ve got to make sure the feedback they’re giving [Register] is not as the role of a cheerleader,” Lanier said. “We’ve got to have open dialogue and a welcoming culture of all of our stakeholders.”

As for Porter, as current board chair she has defended the trajectory of Metro schools while acknowledging there’s still work to do. “We’ve made a lot of progress since I’ve been on the board,” Porter said, noting the rocky relationship between the state and Metro when she arrived. That conflict has since subsided. She points to the Academies for helping lower the dropout rate and increasing the district’s graduation rate.

“In moving forward, we’ve got to keep our eye on what we’re already doing,” she said, pointing to closing the achievement gap, bracing for depleting Race to the Top funds and ensuring professional development for teachers.

 

District 1: Two board members compete for one seat

If there’s a swing race in this year’s school board elections — one that will either signal a win for SEIU or the chamber — it’s in North Nashville’s District 1. Following last year’s redistricting process, the race features the unusual quirk of two sitting board members vying for one seat.

Ed Kindall, a 27-year veteran of the board and choice of the SEIU, is squared off against Sharon Gentry, who enjoys chamber backing. MNEA elected to endorse both.

“It was definitely a surprise,” Gentry, a program director at HCA, said of the situation created by new political boundaries. “But it is what it is.”

Looking ahead at potentially four more years on the board, Gentry cited “some serious disparities” that must be addressed in the quality of facilities in District 1, which includes some of Nashville’s’ lowest income neighborhoods, compared to other parts of the county. “The disparity is very prevalent in District 1.”

Gentry, who along with Kindall, served on the board that hired Register, said the superintendent has solidified a sound structure for MNPS, citing his reorganization of the central office. “I think there’s still some things that can be improved upon. Evident from conversations I’ve had, there seems to be a disconnect. I think that’s where we kind of need to try to close the gap.

“We have to do better to build the confidence of everyone in what we’re here to do as a school district,” she said.

Kindall, the board’s longest-serving member, squeaked out his last re-election bid by 102 votes despite lacking the chamber’s support. “Sharon and I both take the posture that we’re not running against each other,” he said. “We’re running for a school board seat.” He said he’s unsure he and Gentry differ in philosophy but believes he has more of a “hands-on approach.”

Kindall also cited his longevity and institutional knowledge. “I think my historical background with the board is really of a lot of value. I’m a strong believer that if you don’t know the history, you have a tendency to repeat the same mistakes over and over again.

“We’re at an interesting and very critical point, especially as it relates to issues like the achievement gap,” Kindall said. “We’ve got to really find a way to change the culture for high expectations.”

Kindall, one of the board’s fiercest charter school critics, set the tone for the board’s rejection of Great Hearts Academies last week after citing diversity concerns. “If we’re not careful, we’re moving back to a kind of separate-but-equal philosophy, which I think is not a good approach for this city,” he said of his anti-Great Hearts stance.

Gentry also voted against Great Hearts.

 

District 9: No clear frontrunner

It wouldn’t be a Metro general election without Eric Crafton, would it?

Crafton, the former Bellevue councilman fresh off unsuccessful runs for council at-large and juvenile court clerk (as well as a failed stab at becoming elections administrator), has his eyes set on the West Nashville-area District 9 seat held by Kay Simmons, who has opted against running for re-election. A crowded field of five is contending for the seat.

Crafton said MNPS spends on average $2,500 more per pupil than other districts across the state. His plan is to divert what amounts to that $160 million “premium” to the district’s failing students for tutoring purposes. “Let’s tutor them in reading and writing and math, things that they’re failing, so they can improve rapidly.” he said.

But Crafton — an often controversial figure for his failed English-only push in 2008 — doesn’t seem to be the frontrunner in this contest. Some say District 9 is a two-person race between Margaret Dolan and Amy Frogge.

Dolan, the vice president of community relations at Ingram Industries who serves on a number of nonprofit Nashville boards, listed closing the achievement gap as her top priority. That challenge will become more difficult, she stressed, as Tennessee implements common core state standards.

“The way we get there is by staying with our rigorous standards, making sure we’ve got a quality teacher in every classroom, and by getting parents engaged,” Dolan said.

A onetime board member of the Tennessee Charter Incubator, Dolan has the support of the pro-chamber crowd, the chamber and teachers union. Dolan called charter schools a “critical” tool for MNPS but they’re not “the be-all, end-all answer.”

Frogge, an attorney and grant writer for the nonprofit Room in the Inn, said a desire to engage community support for Metro’s public schools drew her to the race. Right now, she said, there’s division. “I think there’s a disconnect between some of the MNPS leadership and what is actually going on in the schools,” Frogge said. “I see my role as a facilitator of communication between parents, teachers, the community and school leadership.”

“What struck me during this campaign is that the school reform movement is largely driven by private schools parents, and a lot of our parents in public schools feel very marginalized and unheard,” she said.

Frogge pointed out that she’s the only District 9 candidate who is the parent of children currently enrolled in Metro schools.

Another candidate, Ronnie Osborne, a retired teacher and baseball coach, has objected to a related fact: Crafton and Dolan currently send or have sent their kids to private schools. Crafton’s daughter is set to attend Christ Presbyterian Academy, while Dolan’s adult children started at MNPS before later attending Montgomery Bell Academy and Harpeth Hall in high school.

“I see a big contradiction,” Osborne said of private school parents vying for public school board seats. (The District 9 seat, in fact, has a history of private school connections, with both Simmons and Alan Coverstone, her predecessor)

Crafton said he would have sent his daughter to public schools but she struck out of the Meigs magnet lottery system.

Said Dolan, “I’m passionate about public education, which is why I’ve been spending so much time working on this. I think every child in Nashville deserves to have a great education. You shouldn’t have to move to get it, and you shouldn’t have to go to private schools do get it.”

The fifth candidate is someone with a long history in Metro matters: Bob Bogen, a former councilman and longtime MNEA executive director. Bogen, in fact, defeated Crafton in a council race more than a decade ago,

Bogen, 85, has recently worked as a school crossing guard. “Now retired, I have the option of doing whatever I like to do,” Bogen said. “Of course, public education has been a passion of mine for many years.”

He said while educators focus on test scores there’s a lack of attention on what’s going on inside homes, especially in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. He said he’s worried that children in community housing, for example, begin their schooling lacking the basic knowledge and skills their more affluent peers have.

“That’s one of my considerations, and I’d like to talk to school board members about it, to see if we can convince other departments of government to come in and help these parents,” Bogen said.

 

District 7: A governor’s aide and a community activist

New political boundaries left a void of board representation for an altered District 7, which stretches from Berry Hill to Percy Priest Lake in southeast Davidson County.

The opening attracted three contenders: Will Pinkston, a former aide to Gov. Phil Bredesen and onetime Tennessean and Wall Street Journal reporter; Al Wilkins, a community activist and retired Teamster truck driver; and Alan Sharp, who says he’s worked in health care and the construction and retail industries.

Pinkston, known as something of a political bulldog during his Bredesen days, raised some eyebrows when he announced his candidacy in the spring. He cited his involvement in education reform with Bredesen, adding, “The biggest opportunities for change actually are at the local level.” He said that working in the second-largest school system in the state — and the local district where he attended Overton High School — is a way to give back.

Pinkston, endorsed by the chamber and MNEA, pointed to supporting teachers through higher-quality professional development as an area the board should address. He called the recent move to bump teachers’ starting salaries a positive step toward improved teacher recruitment and retention.

“The next school board has tremendous opportunities and significant challenges in front of it, and it needs people who are familiar with the issues, who are ready to serve, and who have a stake in the system and community,” Pinkston said.

Wilkins, who has SEIU’s backing, said he decided to enter into this race following volunteer work at the state legislature. “We spend a lot of money, and we’re getting a low report card from the state, and we have failing schools, and a high dropout rate,” Wilkins said. “That says that something is not clicking right.”

Asked about his thoughts on Register, Wilkins criticized the superintendent: “It’s under his leadership that we have these low scores. That’s all I can say about that. You’re only as good as your leader.

“The support staff that I talk to from time to time, they’re sitting down on pins and needles because they don’t know whether they’re going to be moved or even replaced,” he said.

The City Paper was unable to reach Sharp for an interview.

 

District 3: Three candidates, three outlooks

The race for District 3 positions pits Jarod DeLozier, a 32-year-old coffee shop owner, versus two longtime Metro school employees: Jill Speering, a retired teacher of 35 years, and Fred Lee, who worked as a teacher school counselor and coach for 33 years collectively.

The district, whose seat is currently held by departing board member Mark North, stretches from Inglewood, through Madison up to Goodlettsville.

DeLozier, a father of two who owns Ugly Mugs Coffee & Tea in East Nashville, said the idea of running for school board originated from talking to patrons at his shop who have shared a “whole spectrum” of attitudes about Metro schools. “It’s not always negative,” he said. “But we’ve also had regular customers who’ve decided to live out of county when their kids got to school age.

“What I don’t bring is a bunch of history from being in the system for a long time,” said DeLozier, whose one school-age child attends Dan Mills Elementary School. “For me, as a parent, that’s a good thing, a fresh perspective.”

DeLozier, who has earned the support of the chamber and the pro-charter Great Public Schools PAC, said he’s “open” to charters but added he’s “open to anything that’s on the table” to make MNPS a better system. “The state is sending a really clear message about the fact that we’re going to have charters as part of our system,” he said. “So I think the role of the board is going to be to discern how they’re going to work in our system, what role do we want them to play.”

Speering, who spent 25 years in Metro schools, said as a teacher she “identified kids falling between the cracks” and felt it her responsibility to ensure that no kids fall behind, particularly in the area of reading and writing. “We’ve been talking about closing the achievement gap for the 25 years that I’ve been in Metro schools, and I’m not sure we’re much closer than we were 25 years ago.”

Speering said she believes instruction is geared too much toward state-mandated TCAP test. Endorsed by the MNEA, she said teachers lack adequate support, citing the state’s decision to strip collective bargaining rights from the union. Speering said she generally supports charter schools as offering great choice but she has some concerns.

“Nationally speaking, only 17 percent of charter schools are doing better than their local counterparts,” Speering said. “It’s not a panacea, and I’m afraid some organizations do see it as a panacea.”

Lee, a licensed attorney endorsed by SEIU, is an adjunct professor at Tennessee State University. “Everything I’ve done in my life points toward it,” Lee said of his school board run, adding that it provides a way to give back to the community where he grew up.

Lee said the “honeymoon period” is about over for Register, arguing the superintendent needs to “start standing up” to special interest groups: He named the mayor and the chamber.  

Lee cited “choice” as one of the school district’s biggest needs, particularly additional academic magnet schools without sacrificing diversity. “We need to slowly move these magnet schools further into the suburbs, which are now more diverse than they’ve ever been,” he said.

Lee said he also supports the expansion of the International Baccalaureate program. He’s wary of charters. “What I’m finding out about charters schools, I’m not liking,” he said.

20 Comments on this post:

By: Ask01 on 7/2/12 at 3:20

I would like to re-introduce a proposal I advanced earlier.

Fire the entire current school board.

Replace this group with representatives drawn from the active members of MNPS PTA, PTO, PTSA, or PTSO, whichever group is popular these days, selected by the seperate schools.

This will create the unique circumstance of having a school board composed of members who know and understand the needs of the individual schools and, most important, have a vested interest in actually improving the quality of school facilities and the educational process.

As an added bonus, the group could could elect a chair person from among their number, negating the need for a high paid individual with no true personal stake in the education of Nashville's children.

Doctor Register would then be free to move on to greener pastures.

I realize this is a radical departure, allowing actual parents with school age children to guide the body responsible for overseeing the education of their children, but feel the idea deserves a chance.

The most attractive aspect, to me at least, is the group and their leader would not be beholding to the mayor or city council.

A truly wonderful prospect, I believe.

By: govskeptic on 7/2/12 at 6:03

Ask01 is about as silly of a idea as I've heard lately! This board should be
made up of a diversified group of smart individual from across the county
that brings lots of different ideas and proposals for consideration, not a
unified "insider" group that bring nothing more than their own and their
peers self-interest plans for consideration. Taxpayer funded Public
Education requires and has many different stake holders, it's not the
exclusive domain of a group considering themselves "Education elitist!"

Maintaining the status quo as practiced in the past and lead by the
selfish TEA and their supporters has put the system in the poor
condition we all desire to improve upon!

By: Rasputin72 on 7/2/12 at 7:06

You could elect Socrates and Aristotle to the board in Davidson County and effort by them would be fruitless. Does not anyone understand what is the make-up of the student body in Davidson County? With apologies to MLK ,Hume Fogg and Julia Green.

By: Loner on 7/2/12 at 7:20

This is a well-written and comprehensive piece of writing...Joey Garrison should be congratulated, IMO.

As an outsider without a dog in the hunt, an axe to grind or a score to settle, it appears to me that Nashville has some fundamental issues that must be dealt with before real educational reform and test score improvement can be expected.

It looks to me that there is a lot of residual hate in Nashville and a lot of distrust and folks are polarized into competing camps. It's very difficult to make progress in such an environment.

Once the Fairness Doctrine was struck down by the Reagan Administration and its courts, the gloves were removed and the fist fight got bloody.

Today, the right-wing dominated airwaves (TV and radio) and the right-wing press and internet sites devote a great deal of time and energy into deliberately polarizing people's views on issues of public concern, such as education, the role of government in education, collective bargaining, school taxes, the role of religion in education, curriculum development and last but not least, integration of minorities into the educational system.

Nobody is in the mood to compromise...there is a lot of money at stake....agendas and egos are involved. This is a perfect recipe for permanent stagnation....educational reform in Nashville may be decades away, if ever.....there's just too much hate in Music City.

By: Loner on 7/2/12 at 7:23

Rasp, tell us, what is the make-up of the student body in Davidson county?

By: Rasputin72 on 7/2/12 at 7:50

Yes indeed, 63% are on free lunch and another rather large percentage is on free breakfast. They come from underclass parents and have underclass leanings. Education is a holding pattern until they can get out on the street fully. A huge majority are disruptive to those who want to learn.. The real kicker is that the majority in anything always set the tone for what goes on sociallly and academically.

The public schools have been abandoned by those parents who truly want their children to someday have the same ability to express themselves as you do,LONER

The public schools in Davidson County are no longer conducive to education as you and I know it nor is it a morally incubating.

You must remember that I come from a family who does not believe that you can make chicken salad out of chicken dung no matter how many ingriedients of taste can be added. All public school education does for the underclass is re-inforce the desire for free stuff. Free breakfast,Free Lunch,Free book,Free air-conditioning, Free playground and Free playground equipment. Free bandaids for a skinned knee,Free heat in the winter. Last but not least Not the slightest interest in any academic pursuit. Those that do wind up at Hume Fogg and MLK or a private school.

You can believe with all your might that all people are born equal but that is the biggest hoax that has ever been perpetuated on human society.

T

By: Loner on 7/2/12 at 8:07

So, it's nature, not nurture? Chicken dung, by nature, cannot become chicken salad, no matter how much effort one puts into trying. The genetics, the DNA, the biophysics just are not there.

Well, Rasp we disagree on the fundamental nature of human beings...you see them as chickens, or chicken droppings.....I try to see my fellow human beings as family members, not barnyard fowl.

I have been accused of being an elitist, a snob, an arrogant know-it-all and a misled ideologue....but Rasp, you got me beat....I concede the titles....congrats!

By: Rasputin72 on 7/2/12 at 10:09

LONER.....I graciously accept the titles! There is no humility on my part.

By: Loner on 7/2/12 at 11:02

Thank you you Rasp, for the refreshing honesty....it's official, you are now a "Misled, Ideological, Snobbish, Typical, Arrogant, Know-it-all, Elitist"....Acronym: MISTAKE.

Wear the title well....credit the Lone One......you are an official MISTAKE.

By: Rasputin72 on 7/2/12 at 11:54

Now Loner, I have always admired your restraint when you are in disagreement. I now see that debate is not your passion. You are no different than the rest of us. When your bias is pushed to the limit you lash out just like most normal folks.

The only real mistake in your life is that you were not able to raise yourself to the life that you can only yearn for. You were smart enough but somehow you missed the opportunity that others from the bottom were able to grasp. Thus you use your intelligence to martyr yourself with believing that the caste system of the United States does not exist. I for sure make for a wonderful target. I have been to the mountaintop just like someone you admire and I have looked down upon the bowels of humanity.

By: Loner on 7/2/12 at 12:12

Aw, come on, Rasp, I was just exercising my rights...I have a valid NYS Comedic License.

And my alter ego, "Jingle James" needed the exercise in acronym manipulation.....BTW, should your business associates need a witty wordsmith, one skilled in the following areas, please contact me on these NCP, Up For Debate boards:

Allow me to introduce myself and my services....I'm not just Loner@NCP....I am Jingle James...just think JAMES:

J is for Jingles
A is for Acronyms
M is for Mnemonic devices
E is for Euphemisms
S is for Slogans

I do not work on the cheap...but you get what you pay for. Let me go to work for you.

By: Loner on 7/2/12 at 12:16

Gotta run...it's another Protest Monday.....later.

By: Specter47 on 7/2/12 at 12:24

Here we go again. People, if ANYONE is endorsed by MNEA or SEIU, PLEASE do not vote for them!! Also, if they campaign by praising Jesse Register, then don't vote for them, either. You must choose someone who is an independent thinker, beholden to no one. We don't need anyone who follows MNEA's direction or who is a Register Yes-man or Yes-woman.

By: Balo on 7/2/12 at 3:30

How many different ways can you tell the story. I was at the Hillwood debate and Mr Crafton and Mrs Dolan had different reasons for their children leaving the Nashville school system than the reasons quoted in this article.

Playing politics...do not let the facts get in the way to the ballot box.

By: David_S on 7/2/12 at 3:32

Okay, let's all at least agree on one thing: that "I'm qualified because my child attends a public school" rationale is complete garbage. If you are a parent, and look long and hard at the metro school system, and ultimately decide that it is not good enough for your child, why does that disqualify you? Shouldn't we be voting for people who AREN'T satisfied with the way metro is currently run, not people who think the status quo is just fine by them? Honestly, take a second and think about that. What Osborne and others are saying is that if you are one of the MANY people in Nashville who thinks the metro system is run so poorly that you wouldn't want them educating your children, you shouldn't be one of the people charged with fixing it.

By: bugmenot on 7/2/12 at 3:47

David, speaking for myself and not Osborne, I don't think the point is that parents who don't send their kids to Metro Schools are therefore unqualified, it's that parents who do have kids in Metro Schools (currently!) have a unique interest in seeing Metro Schools improve. The fact that Osborne once had kids in public school is meaningless. The fact that Frogge has kids in public school now is meaningful.

At any rate, I watched as much of the District 9 video that the Nashville Chamber posted on YouTube as I could handle and thought Frogge was the most sincere, and she and Crafton were both very knowledgeable. The others seemed either unprepared or narrowly focused. I also watched enough of the District 7 race to see that Pinkston is essentially unopposed. Going to watch District 5 next.

Anyway, this piece by Joey is really well done and I'm glad to see some interest in these races.

By: Ask01 on 7/2/12 at 4:55

Govskeptic, you will have to explain to me why a better option is to have allegedly 'smart' people, presumably with no stake in the issue, deciding the course for Metro schools as opposed to parents who have a very great stake in ensuring Nashville students receive a quality education.

Based on the current track record, with the state threatening to take over the district, it seems to me a coalition of concerned parents could out perform those presently charged with managing education.

Let us be honest. Parents have, as I've noted, a vested interest in the education of children. Much more so, I'm certain, than someone elected to a 'position,' possibly with no children in the system.

I'm sorry, but the idea doesn't seem the least bit silly to me.

The only ones who could possibly object might be someone who fears the 'wrong' students, (wrong color, wrong ethnicity, wrong religion, etcetera) receiving more than those with approved backgrounds.

By: pswindle on 7/2/12 at 5:49

The Charter Schools can open without public money. Public money needs to stay in the public school system. If the Charter Schools are this great, parents should be happy to pay a small fee for their children to attend. What the parents really want is a private school education with public money. But, the owners can't wait to get their hands on lots of Metro money. Metro has everhthing that the students need for a top grade education. Give Metro a chance and get off of the teachers's back and let them teach without all of the unnecessary paperwork.. It has worked before and it can work again.

By: BigPapa on 7/3/12 at 1:34

People with kids in private schools shouldn't be disqualified by rule or law, but I think it's a very fair question to ask by the voters. I dont think Brentwood Academy really wants me chiming in on how they should run their business.. I mean school so why would a BA parent want to run the Metro schools?

By: Ask01 on 7/3/12 at 6:13

pswindle, I agree entirely that we have much of what is required for education to take place.

My personal opinion, based on absolutely no scientific criteria, but on observation, reading news reports, and trying to follow MNPS progress on overall grades, is the main problem facing most public schools is the attitudes of students and parents.

Some students seem to come from families and neighborhoods where a high premium is not placed on education. This segment of the student population seems, from my perspective, not to care about academic acheivement, reflecting, as noted their home environment.

As bad as it may sound, I believe we need a system whereby those students not willing to contribute to the learning process can be channeled to schools where they learn the absolute basics and, in conjunction with a willing business partner, begin learning skills so they will at least be employable when they graduate.

This will allow those wanting an education to learn without the distractions.

I'm sure someone will take exception to this idea also.