"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Monday, October 20, 2014

East Nashville United Parents Shut Out of Board Meeting by Astroturf Charter Group

From East Nashville United:

At last Tuesday’s school board meeting, our members showed up in force to signal their opposition of Dr. Register’s Third-Way Proposal because it was not created with genuine and earnest community input. There, we met a new community group wearing blue t-shirts that said “East Nashville Believes.” Primarily made up of parents and teachers from charter schools in East and–according to some of the parents in attendance–North Nashville, these parents, students, and charter school teachers and operators made their opinions on choice felt—and then some.

Still, the presence of this group was somewhat curious. Not once since Dr. Register announced his proposal has anyone debated anyone else’s decision to make a choice.

East Nashville United has asked for a community-driven plan, period.

Well-organized, with Twitter hashtag at the ready, those in blue shirts arrived well over an hour before Tuesday’s meeting. When our members arrived 30 or so minutes before the start of the 5:00 p.m. meeting, they had no place to sit.

After four weeks of attending packed priority school meetings, providing child care, and canvassing East Nashville neighborhoods to engage in conversations about education in East Nashville, we were largely shut out of the most important school board meeting since the announcement of Dr. Register’s plan. Until that evening, we hadn’t seen the folks in the blue shirts at these priority school meetings or on the streets knocking doors. When we met with some of the leaders just a few days before, not one mentioned that they would be attending, or that they had formed a new group. We were disappointed, given the lost opportunity to collaborate (not just by talking, but on food, transportation and childcare — there doesn’t seem to have been a reason for two separate sets of childcare options).

We respect the charter community, as well as its students, teachers, and parents.  We welcome them to the conversation.

We admire the dedication they have to their schools and realize that dedication was earned. The charter community showed up to support its schools because these schools are working for them. That’s obvious, and it is something we celebrate with them.

At no point have we ever suggested that the district close down charters schools in East Nashville. In fact, we have made it very clear that we support all of our East Nashville schools, from our priority schools, to non-priority schools like Warner and Stratford, to charters like KIPP and Liberty Collegiate, who are as much a part of our community as any other school east of the river.

But the fact is, this doesn’t need to be yet another conversation about charters.

We’ve had those conversations in Nashville again and again and come away dumber and dumber each time. Yet, for some reason unknown to us—perhaps because they are winning the debate at the state and local level—they have shut us out of our repeated attempts to collaborate. It appeared from last Tuesday that the folks in the blue shirts want to fan that debate back into flame. We hope that’s not the case.

We want a more interesting dialogue.

We want a discussion about all of our East Nashville schools and how we can make sure that they are serving the needs of our children. We aren’t going to accept a top-down plan that throws our schools—all our schools—into a state of panic and chaos. We want a plan that reflects the diverse needs of our East Nashville communities.

How then do we get there? From the very beginning, East Nashville United (and only East Nashville United) has pushed for a community-driven task force to make recommendations to MNPS. We advocated for a position from East Nashville Charter Schools on the task force. We repeat: East Nashville United pushed for a community-driven task force and for a East Nashville Charter School representative on the task force. This is a fact, and cannot be disputed.

On Tuesday, Dr. Register announced that he would be forming such a task force. This was a first step in ensuring that MNPS devises an effective, thoughtful plan for our schools—and not a collection of slogans disguised as policy. We have more work to do in ensuring that our task force has the time and resources necessary to do its job, but we’re making progress. Over the next few weeks, you can expect to see us at neighborhood meetings, football games, and walking your streets talking about schools.

We renew again our invitation to the charter school community to join us—and build on what we have already accomplished.
We have done this privately with very little success. We will continue to do so in spite of the roadblocks.  We want a genuine conversation about education policy for all schools in East Nashville, and hope that the charter school folks on this side of the river will participate. We know they love their schools; we hope they’ll spread the love for the rest of the schools in East Nashville as well.

We can’t afford to waste time on petty squabbles about who said what on facebook, or what rumor is floating around the East side.

The children in our schools need the help of their community–ALL of their community–and we must answer that call, before any more time is lost.

No comments:

Post a Comment