Hillsboro supporters ask school board to reinstate Bradshaw

Tuesday, April 12, 2011 at 9:58pm

Hillsboro High School parents, students and alumni packed Tuesday night’s school board meeting to stare down Director of Schools Jesse Register face-to-face and deliver a clear message: Reinstate adored teacher Mary Catherine Bradshaw as the school’s International Baccalaureate coordinator.

“The timing of this transfer is reactionary, illogical and debilitating,” said Cameron Phillips, parent of a Hillsboro student. “The IB mission is to retain knowledgeable personnel at the helm. Ms. Bradshaw is the finest coordinator in the state of Tennessee

“When has excellence equaled dismissal?” she asked. 

Tuesday’s regularly scheduled board meeting gave the Hillsboro community a chance to publicly weigh in on what has turned into the hot-button topic of public education in Nashville: the removal of Bradshaw, a teacher at Hillsboro since 1984, from her position as director of the IB program. It’s an issue that has already attracted attention from state legislators and Metro council members, and spurred thousands to pledge support via Facebook and through petitions.

“This issue is bigger than Mary Catherine,” said David Williams, a Hillsboro math teacher and middle-years IB coordinator. “What faith can a family put in MNPS if one of its best and brightest, and leader of a successful, community-inspired program, is transferred? What does that say about how we do business educating our children –– your children?”

Metro officials have named veteran educator Sharon Chaney as Bradshaw’s interim replacement. Officials have not gotten into the specifics of Bradshaw’s transfer, but have said Bradshaw will continue serving with the district.

On Tuesday, Williams informed the school board that he, in fact, was the first candidate to be offered the new IB coordinator position.

As reported by the Nashville Scene, a rift between Bradshaw and the school seemed to originate through the continued implementation of career academies –– the model of the ongoing transformation of Metro high schools –– that seek to break up comprehensive schools into career-oriented themes. The transformation has been advanced by Jay Steele, associate superintendent of the district’s high schools, brought to Metro schools last year from St. Augustine, Fla., where he led a similar charge. 

A few speakers at Tuesday’s meeting demanded Register, Steele and Hillsboro principal Terry Shrader sit down to figure out a way to retain Bradshaw as the program’s coordinator.

Others took aim not only at the decision to dismiss Bradshaw, but also at the concept of career academies in general, characterizing the approach –– perhaps unfairly –– as “vocational training.”

“If the best teachers such as Ms. Bradshaw are removed from the school, and there’s an increased emphasis on vocational training, I can only infer that the objectives of the administration are not in line with maintaining the highest level of intellectual challenges of college-bound students,” said Bruce Carter, a parent.

Approached recently by The City Paper regarding Bradshaw’s transfer, Register declined to speak on the personnel decision itself. 

Register said he’s pleased with the direction at Hillsboro, specifically the recent announcement of the Hillsboro STEM academy partnership with Vanderbilt University. He also said he’s excited about the expansion of the IB program within the Hillsboro cluster.

But the outcry over Bradshaw’s transfer seems unlikely to cease.

William Nelson, a Hillsboro alum, said if Bradshaw is not retained supporters plan to seek support from the business community and Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce to further their cause.

“Please relieve this situation by Monday, May 9, or we will continue to take this to the business community,” Nelson said. “Get your popcorn ready.”

This story has been updated to reflect a clarification of Jay Steele's role in advancing MNPS career academies. 

14 Comments on this post:

By: Leazee on 4/12/11 at 11:30

If I understand correctly, it is the business community generally and the Chamber specifically who are insistent that the MNPS graduate students with specific skills that the Nashville business community needs. I do not see them furthering the cause of retaining Mary Catherine though I remain hopeful.

By: Moonglow1 on 4/13/11 at 7:56

Moonglow1: the writer is correct. Ms. Bradshaw is being sacrificed to further the larger agenda of vocational tracks. This administration believes in supplying cheap labor to business & students who graduate from vocational schools are not paid as well as those students enrolled in a college track program. So power to the people!! I hope you take that energy to initiate recall efforts for members of this administration who are waging ideological war against the democratic values of the middle class. As an example do you really want your children to fail science because they are being taught creationism & will most likely test lower on college entrance exams than students in more traditional focused rigorous science classes. We cannot compete now in the global economy. The new schools commissioner from DC was also hired to make fundamental changes and not for the better. His X-wife was very controversial in DC & fired 100s of teachers. Parents need to know more about this new leadership & find out the real agenda behind the educational reform slogan.

By: youmustbekiddingme on 4/13/11 at 8:12

Just wondering - what does Ms. Bradshaw have to say? Does she welcome this support and does she WANT to stay at Hillsboro? Or have I missed something?

By: howelln on 4/13/11 at 9:21

I think career academies are misguided. Asking a 14-year-old to decide on a career path is more than a little absurb. Most of the careers they are going to have do not even exist yet. I think there should be a return to traditional vocational offerings for those who want them. But putting an entire school on a "career path" is shortsighted, especially for a school like Hillsboro with a high college bound population.

By: bonk on 4/13/11 at 9:23

youmustbekiddingme: I think in this case you have to assume that Ms. Bradshaw's silence is deafening. If she were OK with the decision - there'd be no reason for her to keep her silence.

More than most metro teachers, she knows how to contact the media. I don't care how beloved you are, it would be exceedingly bad form for any teacher to publicly criticize their principal. She doesn't need to do any talking. Her students and colleagues are doing it for her.

By: rawhide09 on 4/13/11 at 9:54

Why should Bradshaw say anything? She is able to look like the victim and knows that the Administration dare not utter a word to reflect negatively on her lest it be sued--frivolously or not.

Bradshaw was being insubordinate. See ya. Bradshaw needs to become a principal or director of schools (or influencer of principals or directors) if she expects to be able to fulfill her duties as she pleases.

By: sickofstupidity on 4/13/11 at 10:06

Missing from the meeting wereJay Steele and Dr. Schrader. Both weasels. They have better things to do than mess with a program and teacher who are excellent. Unfortunatesly, they pick on this program and don't address the real failures of MNPS. Hillsboro would just be another ghetto day care center without this IB program. Unfortunately, only about 50 to 60 students are involved. In a school with over 1200 students you can imagine waht the majority of these kids are like since they overwhelmingly come fro the 8th and 12th avenue projects. MNPS will ultimately be taken over by the State...you cannot educate the lower class from areas such as these. Lower the drop-out age to 12.

By: River99 on 4/13/11 at 10:23

Why does Metro want to "fix" something that is NOT broken?

The principal and director need to get over themselves and admit fault and retract this decision OR speak up and explain to all of us what the Real reason is for removing Bradshaw or as they put it...transferring her.

After so many years of being just another Metro public school, Hillsboro is at the front of the pack. Bradshaw has been recognized not only statewide but nationally as one of the leading educators. So, again, why remove or transfer the "ace in the hole"? It would be one thing to transfer Bradshaw to another school because they wanted to have the same success but....this is not the case. If having more vocational training for students is a priority, then why bother with high school? Let them graduate at 8th grade and go get a job.

No wonder parents prefer to live in Williamson county for public education or go broke choosing private over public schools! Metro has always had a bad wrap about the public school system and this really hits the nail on the head.

By: artsmart on 4/13/11 at 12:57

Unfortunately with a rubber stamp school board Metro Schools will just continue to slide down hill. I just hope when the State takes over that maybe Bransford will be cleaned out. Say all you want about bad teachers but without leadership of any substance nothing improves.

By: barb3433 on 4/13/11 at 7:09

This isn't about career academies. It's about power. Think of the timing. They easily could have waited 8 more weeks till school is out, then made the transition over the summer with a lot less furor. Doing it at this point in the school year added an element of insult to the "transfer" and shows it is about more than a new direction they are choosing to take. It's about control and about sending a message to other teachers: "If we can do this to a long-standing teacher who is respected, loved, recognized for her achievements...just think what we could do to you if we choose." One must not cross the bear on Bransford. Retaliation lives on there for years and years.

By: Loretta Bridge on 4/13/11 at 9:35

I congratulate the students, parents and alums of Hillsboro for standing tall and strong. It is time for us to take back control of many things especially our schools. Our government does not seem to be able to fix the existing problems they only seem to be able to cause new ones. Davidson Country schools are nothing less than bad and now they are getting rid of the most affective and best they have. It is Register, Dean, the school board, the City Council and the TN State Legislators that need to be relieved of their duties. Can ANYONE tell me what good things they have done in the last 4 years? They worry more about what kind of milk to give the students than they worry about what is being put in our kids heads. THIS IS OUR OF HAND.

By: govskeptic on 4/14/11 at 6:49

Apparently the press and a few individuals that know the procedures on PR are
going to run the school system and select who is employed at what school
in our fair city. I would suggest there's been too much of that already over the
years. If the Administration can't transfer even one teacher without the Board
having a Public hearing on the matter, how in heck can more substantial matters
be implemented! Should one or two individual council members be allowed a
Public Hearing on ever goofy demand they make on the School Board? Sad. Sad

By: HokeyPokey on 4/14/11 at 7:03

In other News: Hillsboro supporters ask school board to allow Bradshaw to carry gun

By: Community-carl-... on 4/14/11 at 9:32

Regarding the 7:09 post by "barb3433" -

The last sentence is absolutely correct.