The leader of one of Nashville’s most successful charter schools went to blows with a prominent Metro school board member over Facebook Friday night, complete with personal attacks and threats to obstruct the charter’s future school expansions.
The altercation began after board member Will Pinkston posted a news story on his personal Facebook page about Nashville Prep leader Ravi Gupta — a charter school leader who was approved to open another school in 2014 — condemning a district board member’s criticism of the charter school movement.
“Just one month after my Nashville School Board colleague Amy Murrell Frogge voted to green-light Nashville Prep's second charter school, Ravi now is publicly criticizing Amy's widely shared views on public education reform,” read Pinkston’s post. “My advice to charter and traditional principals: Be educators, or be activists. But don't try to be both.”
This summer, the Metro Nashville Public School board unanimously approved Gupta’s request to create a Nashville Academy of Computer Science, a Nashville Prep middle school. Pinkston was a founding board member of Nashville Prep.
However, tensions have remained between the MNPS school board and the charter school community since last year’s high profile denial of a charter school proposed in West Nashville.
What developed in the online debate was a series of sharp responses to each other beginning with perspectives on who should advocate on the charter movement to personal digs and questioning their dedication to education.
“I get it. Vote for our school and you get to say and advocate for whatever you want,” read a comment from Gupta following the post.
“Wrong,” responded Pinkson. “Get elected by Davidson County voters and you get to express your opinion. Fancy that. Who elected you?”
The conversation soon escalated from a policy debate to one more personal.
“You report to your board and Bransford. I've been grinding it out in the reform trenches in TN for more than a decade. I don't need or want your support,” read one of Pinkston’s comments. “The only thing I regret is that I accidentally created an environment for arrogant people like you to swoop in and lecture everyone else about the path forward. I think we've got it figured out. Welcome to Nashville.”
“Great, Will,” was the reply from Gupta’s account. “I speak for many (reporters, politicians, parents and citizens) when i say that there is nothing scary about your drunk rage.”
Pinkston then accused Gupta of libel, suggested he “seriously consider whether you belong in this community.” He then said he regrets having sat at on the Nashville Prep board and help hire Gupta.
“Without my support, your second school may or may not have passed,” wrote Pinkston. “What's clear to me now is: The Nashville Prep crowd has no respect for the Nashville School Board and that we need to be more introspective before approving new schools or growth in existing schools.”
The conversation then began to cool down, with Gupta apologizing to Pinkston “for saying your posts above were out of drunk rage. It was a terrible thing to say, and I feel terrible for that.
“I still believe you are trying to bully me and others, but we can have a debate about that on the merits without me throwing ad hominems at you,” he said.
Pinkston replied that Gupta is good for Nashville Prep, but not for Nashville.
“Ravi is a symptom of what's wrong with the charter movement. A few big egos, with a small percentage of students, that basically have turned their backs on public education. It's not just an inefficient approach to reform; it's immoral,” he said.
A source within Nashville Prep said no moves have been made to discipline Gupta for his comments, but it is unclear how they will be reflected on the school leader’s next evaluation.