The website domain was cheaply snapped up by former Banner reporter and power suck-up, Bruce Dobie. He owns the website and the old newspaper logo. He is using those tools to convince the gullible public what he thinks Nashville needs. His latest pet project is convincing the Nashville public that they want an appointed school board so he can have more charter schools for himself and his friends to profit from.
So, Nashville... Who the heck is Bruce Dobie to make a list? Just who does he think he is….Santa Claus???
Why does he get to decide which persons' opinions are significant enough for the "power" list?
Anyway, Dobie and his ed-reformy friends would love to see the public school system controlled for their special interests (aka their own pocket-books). Did you know that Bruce Dobie has even tried to sell some of his property to an ASD charter school? And while trying to broker the deal, he just couldn't resist taking a jab at the MNPS elected board. You can see that in his email below where he cited a recently learned quotation attributed to Mark Twain: "God made the idiot for practice, and then He made the School Board."
Well, Twain may have thought school boards were beyond idiotic but that's nothing compared to what he thought about those who published newspapers: "A publisher is by nature so low and vile that he -- that he -- well from the bottom of my heart I wish all publishers were in hell."
ABOUT THE SURVEY:
This survey of 819 Power Poll members was taken Dec. 9 through Dec. 13. 283 members responded, for a response rate of 35%. The Power Poll is not a scientific measure of the broad electorate. It is, instead, a measure of how influential and powerful Nashvillians view issues facing the city. Responses are anonymous. Power Poll members come from non-profits, politics, government, Music Row, law firms, neighborhood groups, labor unions, and many other avenues of life here. Members share an ability to shape the narrative of the city and influence the discussion.
The press knows they walk a line. If they smear the public school system too much, it will drive growth to Williamson, Wilson, and Sumner Counties. So, the press is sure to never have anything positive to say about MNPS unless it is a magnet or charter school. We are also pointing out that the whisper campaign only goes on with Nashville insiders, political operatives, and the cocktail conversations that move the cogs of politics behind the scenes in Nashville. We guess these who's-who lists are fodder for influence. Totally outside the mainstream press, void of the what parents and the community want.
Smart people will take their back-room conversations, opinions, and power polls with a grain of salt. Smart people, and even poll members, will see past the Dobie smoke & mirrors. Smart people will see how the elite are trying to convince the public we don't need to vote to elect our school board. Smart people will see that the reformers desperately need an appointed school board (appointed by them and the politicians they fund) in order to get privatization and charter schools opened in Nashville. Smart people will not fall for that, and won't give up their rights for elected representation.
Dang it, Nashville can’t seem to keep enough of the bottom 5% of schools in the state for the ASD to legally take-over public schools and give them away to charter entrepreneurs. So they have to rely on MNPS board approval to expand the charter school business model. And the MNPS board isn't being very nice to charters lately... wanting proof and accountability and all that, and then those pesky board members see firsthand how the charter schools are draining money from existing public schools. Gosh, what a hassle to get tax-payer funds! What was once an easy sale is becoming more difficult now that the public is educated, questioning motives, and following the money trail that leads back to the reformers' wallets.
The Nashville newbies coming to the “It City” don’t know this. The clear public message from reformers is to “blame the school board” because the vision for public education to model New Orleans and Chicago is not being implemented fast enough. So Dobie must convince the general public that the power broker reformers are not causing this problem (even though they really are), but a school board who disagrees with the political power is the problem (nope, they are not).
Always, always, this is a brawl over money. Even the power brokers know that! The second hottest issue in Dobie's power poll is the “lack of funding”. But he is quick to blame the state and the underfunded BEP for that problem. The ability for the reform agenda in Nashville to distract from the issues of over-testing, teacher turnover, and the selection of a new director of schools works well with the press to push political misdirection to keep the charter school argument front and center so the elected school board looks incompetent. Nice try, "Nashville Banner," but we are not falling for it.
The disagreement within the MNPS school board is around the management of charter school entry into the district. Nobody is getting rid of charter schools unless it is the charter schools themselves. Performance, financial struggles, and business-model decisions have triggered closure of charter schools, not the MNPS school board. The disagreement centers around some great board-led questions that need answers, not blind implementation. How many new charter schools does Nashville need? Where should they be located? And how will Nashville pay for them? Because it is impossible to build an unregulated, parallel school system without tax payer cost. Gee, that sounds like responsible school board questioning and what you'd want of those elected to represent the public's best interest!
And behind these elected school board members are Nashville public school parents who don’t want schools closed and neighborhoods divided. Parents want the churn of policy to stop, a commitment to their neighborhood schools, and the instability caused by school choice to be better managed. And they certainly do not want funding reduced.
We do not want our children affected by “market disruption.” Our children are not for sale. They are not pawns in a political game. Momma Bears worry about the children most affected by education reform: children in poverty, of color, immigrants, the disabled, and families who can't navigate school choice. These groups of kids need stable, reliable school communities to support them and give them a path to a productive, valued future. Parents want their children’s success to come before profits and political budgets or filling employment niches. They want a school system that serves the community and engages learning, not a school system that serves the reformers through business ventures for charters and test prep.
Which brings us the the “next big thing.” Watch how the superintendent selection goes down in Nashville. To read the press you would think this decision will be made by the Mayor and the Chamber of Commerce. Nope. By law, this is the biggest job Nashville's elected school board will take on in 2016. The Chamber and the Mayor can spew all the PR they want, but in the end the vote will come down to the MNPS elected board to select Nashville’s next public school leader. Democracy will be in charge representing the neighborhoods of Nashville, not the mayor’s office or the Dobie power poll. Yay for democracy!
Nashville struggles to serve their diverse and international population. A public school population that is increasingly diverse and impoverished and judged solely by test scores. Public schools are a public service. Public education is not welfare, not a charity case. It is an investment in our future as a city and a country. Families struggling to adjust to new opportunities in a new country or trying escape generational poverty need more than “basic services.” Meanwhile the “Power Poll” spends their time criticizing the school board for inaction. Maybe the inaction lies elsewhere? We Momma Bears would love to see those of power and influence (including the MNPS board and a new director of schools), fighting for what our kids really need: funding for ELL, smaller classes for kids who are behind grade level, less standardized testing and more teaching, more opportunities to read and be curious and less scripted micromanagement of teachers, preserving the arts and physical education, and increasing social-emotional services for children trying to find their place in an urban school system. Nashville's school board is united behind these issues. They really are. Charter entry pushed by the Nashville business community is the distraction.
Behavior is another "Banner" criticism of MNPS board members. Why do twitter arguments erupt? Because the press is not writing balanced reporting anymore. Heck, Momma Bears blog exists because some moms were frustrated that the public school parent perspective is not represented in the press nor in political decision-making. Momma Bears thinks the press needs to take some blame for the dysfunction because they helped create the mess. And, honestly, the press spreading dirt about the elected school board members to discredit them and push the reformers' agenda is only harming the education system and the students it serves.
In the meantime, the search for a district director of schools that is "reformy-enough" for those trying to shift public education power will apply pressure on the MNPS board scrambling to keep governance and a reputation held together. And what director candidate wants to step into that fire pit? The press, chamber, and mayor’s office need to provide the financial resources (and demand them from the State), be supportive, back off, and let the MNPS board do the job it was elected to do which is to provide policy and governance that serves ALL MNPS students and helps teachers be the best they can be for our kids.
We need leadership from all corners of Nashville to commit to making ALL public schools as great as the Nashville Symphony, Hall of Fame, and Convention Center. Time is what is valued in education... time to teach, time to tutor, time to slow down and give kids the attention they need to learn. There is not one answer.
Maybe Momma Bears needs to assemble its own list of “powerful public school parents and teachers” and survey them? Missing is the insider view of the inability to capitalize on changes that have actually been great for public ed mostly due to lack of funding, thin implementation, political arguing, grant money that dries up, unfunded mandates, teacher turnover, and a shell game to recruit the best students with school choice to mask the struggle to serve all kids at all levels of ability. Economic class and ethnic-based education services are not the answer either. We are slipping dangerously to 'haves' in magnets, charters, and private schools and the 'have-nots' in "government schools." Some might say Nashville is there already. Take a trip in the Momma Bear "way-back time machine" to 2012 and think about what has come to pass in Nashville. This power struggle is not new or built on the shoulders of the current school board. Also take note that Mr. Dobie is mentioned in our way-back linked "Nashville Scene" article, along with education name drops that match right up to education reform members of the power poll today.
So, at the risk of Momma Bears being targeted by these money-hungry reformers, we will keep on blogging and educating those who will read and share. And because of that, we're sure none of us Momma Bears will ever make it on Dobie's Christmas card list or on his sloppy "power poll friend list." Darn. Join the club with us!
Urban Dictionary #pfffft