State Rep. Mike Stewart’s message to Metro Nashville Public Schools administrators Tuesday was unequivocal: Reverse the decision removing veteran Hillsboro High teacher Mary Catherine Bradshaw from her position as international baccalaureate diploma coordinator.
Bradshaw taught at Hillsboro for nearly three decades and was instrumental in creating the IB program, which allows students to take internationally recognized courses for college credit.
Over spring break, sources familiar with the situation say Bradshaw was approached by Hillsboro High principal Terry Shrader, who told her she would be happier at another school given Hillsboro's new direction. A Facebook-fueled wildfire spread as outraged students, former students and parents contend they discovered Bradshaw — the face of the IB program — was unceremoniously swept aside. Only then did MNPS administrators begin a hasty search for her replacement, Nashville Scene learned (See “Coarse Correction” in the March 31 edition). Administrators, though, have yet to discuss their motivations.
Stewart, D-Nashville, registered his anger to a gathering of reporters, parents and students at Legislative Plaza.
"These schools do not need to be redesigned or tampered with,” he said. “They are here to serve our children — not to provide resume-building opportunities for the most recent crop of itinerant education reformers."
The last barb was clearly intended for Jay Steele, Metro’s associate superintendent of high schools who developed career academies at St. Johns County, Fla., public schools — the model for the restructuring of Metro high schools. Steele also traveled as a consultant working for the Ford Motor Company Fund, advising public schools on restructuring themselves into clusters of career academies designed to funnel students into high-demand career paths like information technology. Initially, he came to Nashville on behalf of Ford as MNPS began redesigning its high schools.
Stewart, among other sources the Scene has spoken with, believes Steele and other administrators saw Bradshaw as a potentially outspoken obstacle to restructuring the high schools. Many have speculated that the teacher who shepherded the nationally recognized college preparatory program had a vision for Hillsboro that was at odds with Steele's.
"The reason is that a policy decision was made to emphasize programs other than the Hillsboro international baccalaureate program, and you have a world-class teacher who was perceived to be potentially someone who would ask questions, and she was told she was going to be transferred," Stewart said.
"It is, honestly, one of the worst public policy decisions that I can remember in any context."