As the subject of this email suggests, my husband was one of your students. Graduating from MBA ('98) is to this day one of his greatest achievements and fondest memories. In his junior year, he was in your English Literature class. He has told me many times over the years how much you made him love Milton's "Paradise Lost," and also credits you with teaching all of the young men in your class how poetic rock music can be. He specifically talks about your lesson on Led Zepplin's "Gallows Pole." It must feel really good to have a thirty-three year old man be able to tell you exactly what he learned more than 15 years ago in one of your classes. He says you were one of the best.
A Harpeth Hall graduate myself, I am no stranger to people who love to teach, and students who love to learn. We were so very fortunate to have been exposed to such a challenging education. 100% of all graduating seniors from both of our classes went on to four year colleges. We were primed to succeed. We were so lucky.
Fast forward fifteen years, and here we are. Married, with three young girls. One of them is entering the first grade this fall at Julia Green, and the other two will follow suit. Julia Green is a wonderful school, filled with wonderful diversity, a supportive parent body...it is a wonderful community. Despite the ever-growing threat of massive overcrowding to our facility which is already functioning at 113% capacity, we have been extremely happy there. But what are we to do next? What are we supposed to do with them in 5th grade? The schools available to us after we leave Julia Green are not what we are looking for. I am sure you will agree...as your two children are currently attending private school at USN. The vast majority of West Nashville families are not fortunate enough to be able to foot the bill for private school for three children, which would cost roughly $60,000 per year.
The first Great Hearts Charter School informational meeting we attended in December 2011 was absolutely magical. It was our solution. A rigorous academic environment, without a $20,000 price tag. It was what we were so fortunate to have as children. And they were speaking our language. A curriculum based on the classics. An emphasis on Socratic dialogue. Student and parent accountability. And most importantly...GREAT TEACHERS. Teachers like you.
"Every parent wants to be in control of the educational choices their children have. Parents become discouraged and involvement suffers when they feel those choices are out of their hands. Students lose interest and drop out when they feel stuck in a situation where they have no control.
In Nashville, one thing is clear: Some families enjoy choices that others do not. We have to realize that only by investing in our public system and holding public school leaders accountable for offering strong educational opportunities for all can we make a difference in that situation."
Any chance you recognize that quote? I hope so, because those are your own words from your blog post on March 25, 2008 regarding your interest in running for the school board for district #9. Remember those days? Back when your heart was still in the right place? Back when you related to the thousands of us that have to depend on people like you to provide our children with choices in education? It isn't fair. You're right. In Nashville some families DO enjoy choices that others do not. You enjoy those choices. Most other families do not.
We were absolutely heart broken when we heard that you were recommending that the school board deny the Great Hearts' appeal, especially despite the charter review committee's recommendation for approval. Mr. Coverstone, there are hundreds of families like us. Supportive parents, who truly value education. To insinuate that because of where the school may locate its first facility also houses some of Nashville's wealthiest families and would therefore be lacking in diversity is beyond narrow-minded. Not everyone in West Nashville is rich. And certainly not everyone is racist. We absolutely love the diversity at Julia Green, and believe it truly adds to the education our child is receiving, making her a more worldly thinker, aware of the differences between all of us — but also that we are all the same.
I would like to believe you and I are the same, Mr. Coverstone. I would like to believe that unlike a majority of the members of the current MNPS school board, you do believe in providing the best education possible for the children of Nashville. That you understand that the quality of education should not be determined by one's income. I would like to believe that, but I don't.
In response to your concerns regarding transportation and diversity, Great Hearts Schools do require a lot from the parents of the student attending their school. It is this very requirement that is crucial to their success. You are remiss in your thinking that parents who fall below the poverty line are not willing to make a commitment to their children’s education. While certain socioeconomic factors may make this commitment harder for some families than others, you should rest assured that the commitment is there. Your assumption that socioeconomic status is a predictor of a parent's willingness to provide their children with the best opportunities available to them is insulting.
I want you to know that I read your report to the school board in its entirety.
Don't take the opportunity away from this city because you are trying to cover your bases in regards to diversity within the student population. Let the families of Metro Nashville choose what they want. You are denying ALL of us the opportunity for choice.
You have to know, in your heart of hearts, that for the families that stay awake at night, trying to figure out how to prime their children for success, Great Hearts would be a godsend.
Please, believe in the forgotten middle class. Believe in the people who want more than anything to do what's best for their families. Believe in the people who want to show their children that you don't have to be rich to get a great education. You can be exactly what you want to be as long as someone believes in you. This is NOT what is happening right now in the Hillsboro Cluster, which is evident in the overwhelming number of families of who desperately apply for the lotteries to Meigs Magnet, Hume Fogg, or MLK, in hopes of getting their children out of this wretched system (none of which provide transportation, and none of which have any issues with diversity).
Please, Mr. Coverstone, think about families like us. We deserve a choice in educating our children. We deserve to give them the love of learning that we were lucky enough to get from teachers like you. Think about what Great Hearts could BRING to our city, rather than what it lacks. Or, if you prefer to think of what it lacks, then compare it to what our current MNPS schools lack. Great Hearts is providing academic achievement at its finest. Kids who love to learn. Results like theirs cannot even be compared to our best private schools, because our private schools have admissions requirements. Any child can excel in the classroom, Mr. Coverstone. Any child. All they need is the opportunity.
The bottom line is, it just shouldn't be this hard to make a positive change. Why you are standing in the way is beyond me. The citizens of Nashville are very smart people, Mr. Coverstone, and we know that if we make enough noise, we can make change. If you think that we are going to just drop the idea of bringing this type of charter to our city you are sorely mistaken. The underground movement has started, and everyone is rallying behind the once impossible notion that a private school quality education IS POSSIBLE — and it is possible for everyone. You may create a few road blocks, but we will keep driving. The corrupt nature of our school system assumes that if you just keep knocking people to the ground, eventually they will stop trying to get up. DON'T COUNT ON IT.
"I work on behalf of public schools because I want to see every school in Nashville offer a high quality and particular education so that all parents have real choices that they can exercise on the basis of their own understanding of their children's needs."
Yep, you again. March 2008. I assure you, Mr. Coverstone, that the more 3,000 parents who have put their support behind Great Hearts will not surrender quietly. We will be at the meeting tomorrow night. Hopefully you will be able to answer our many questions in the parking lot following the meeting. We will be there. Waiting for YOU to give us the choices that YOU are wealthy enough to afford.
Average Great Hearts ACT score: 27.9
Average MNPS ACT score from 2010-2011 school year: 18.1
% of Great Hearts students who attend a 4-year college: 95%
% of MNPS students who attend a 4-year college: Less than half attend a 2 or 4 year college, and about 25% receive a degree within 6 years. (www.nashville.gov)