Wednesday, December 17, 2014

With Huffman Hanging Up His Gloves, McQueen Next In The Ring To Defend Common Core

Posted By on Wed, Dec 17, 2014 at 3:55 PM

After superintendents, teachers and legislators spent the last four years beating up his last education commissioner, Gov. Bill Haslam is turning to Candice McQueen to lead the Department of Education for the next four years.

Haslam said he looked no further than the state border for his new commissioner, saying he interviewed “a fairly limited group of folks” to replace outgoing Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman who is leaving the post for the private sector and to write.

McQueen quickly landed on Haslam's list of candidates to take seriously, the governor said, but declined to say who else he was considering, adding, “That’s not a fair question.”

McQueen hails from Lipscomb University where she was recently promoted senior vice president of the College of Education. Her background ranges from teaching elementary and middle school, teaching teachers, overseeing Lipscomb Academy’s three private schools covering pre-K to twelfth grade, and defending Common Core education standards.

In fall of 2013, McQueen testified before a two-day Senate Education Committee meeting to defend the standards as lawmakers first began itching to roll them back. The following session, the legislature walked away with a compromise by delaying a new standardized state test aligned to Common Core until spring of 2016 but leaving the standards alone.

Some legislators are still eager to eliminate Common Core completely in next year’s legislative session, putting McQueen quickly in the ring to defend the standards. The governor, who has stood by the standards, hopes to avoid any rollback while instead asking the public to review the standards online and allow teams of educators to use that feedback toward refining individual standards.

Shortly after taking the senior VP job at Lipscomb, McQueen caught flack for her advocacy of Common Core amid concern from parents she would force teachers at the private school to adopt them. The school does not use Common Core, she responded, but said teachers are encouraged to learn about the standards which are now used across country.

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Calls, Checks and Chatter: Freeman Looks to Be in Mayor's Race

Posted By on Wed, Dec 17, 2014 at 3:01 PM

When Bill Freeman's self-set deadline comes Friday, all indications are that he will announce his candidacy for mayor of Nashville.

As we reported in last week's issue, the real estate tycoon and Democratic mega-fundraiser has been active behind the scenes for months, assembling the makings of a campaign staff, putting a poll in the field and conducting opposition research on himself to see what kind of muck might be raked up over the course of a campaign. He met with at least two other candidates — Megan Barry and Charles Robert Bone — and asked them to either get out of the race or delay their own decisions until he had made his.

Having said in the past that he was "leaning toward" a mayoral run, Freeman told the Scene that he had set a personal deadline of Dec. 19 — the same date on which Mayor Karl Dean announced his first mayoral run in 2007.

Now with that deadline approaching, Pith's sources say Freeman's team has continued reaching out to prospective staff members and preparing for a campaign announcement.

Freeman has been locking up other resources as well. After the Bone campaign signed an agreement with Gray’s Disposal in October to place signs on all of the company’s trucks for $10,000, Freeman then agreed to triple the fee and pay for any associated legal costs to break the agreement and place Freeman campaign signs on the vehicles.

Continue reading »

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Want to Support Journalism in Tennessee? Here's a Kickstarter For You

Posted By on Wed, Dec 17, 2014 at 11:06 AM

Just two years after the Scene was reborn in Nashville as an alt-weekly in 1989, a group in Knoxville started the alt-weekly Metro Pulse. For the last seven years, the paper has been owned by E.W. Scripps, which also owns the Knoxville News-Sentinel. In October, even though Metro Pulse wasn't losing money, Scripps and KNS corporate suits decided to shutter it.

From the Columbia Journalism Review:

Unlike some of its counterparts around the country—like the recently shuttered Providence Phoenix and San Francisco Bay Guardian—the Knoxville alt-weekly wasn’t losing money. But Metro Pulse’s financials just couldn’t stack up for shareholders in E.W. Scripps, which owns the daily, said News Sentinel publisher Patrick Birmingham.

“They were basically break-even, and they were in that situation because they were under the umbrella of the News Sentinel. If they had their own press or were dealing with a commercial printer, the publication would probably be underwater,” said Birmingham. “And unfortunately the trend we were forecasting was that revenues were going to slide.”

The solution: Shut down Metro Pulse, and replace the News Sentinel’s Friday entertainment seection with the new weekly supplement, Go Knoxville. It’s a move for efficiency, offering readers (and the advertisers who want to reach them) just one guide to events around town. About four existing News Sentinel staffers will write the copy, with help from freelancers, including some who wrote for Metro Pulse. Art and production duties will also be carried out by existing News Sentinel staff.

Now, there's a group of former Metro Pulse staffers attempting to bring an alt-weekly back to the city. The Knoxville Mercury was launched as a for-profit subsidiary of the Knoxville History Project, a 501(c)(3) organization "dedicated to promoting awareness of the history, literature, architecture, music, and other culture of Knoxville and Knox County."

There's a complete description of the project here.

Continue reading »

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Council Approves Bridgestone Incentives, Uber/Lyft Regulations

Posted By on Wed, Dec 17, 2014 at 8:21 AM

With nearly unanimous votes Tuesday night, the Metro Council gave final approval to an incentives package for Bridgestone worth more than $50 million as well as a set of regulations that will cover ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft.

The Bridgestone incentives package is tied to the company's planned headquarters relocation to a new 30-story tower in south of Broadway. The relocation will bring 1,100 employees to the SoBro tower, including 600 workers from out of state. The incentives are split into two parts: a 20-year, 100 percent property tax abatement, which passed 31 to 1 — with Councilman Josh Stites casting the lone nay vote — and a $500 grant for each new employee over seven years, which passed unanimously. (Both results were expected, as the deal passed overwhelmingly on second reading earlier this month.)

While the case for such incentives deals is always based primarily on the premise that, without them, the city could lose a company, and its workers, to another city, Metro and Bridgestone officials made that more explicit this time. Both sides have claimed that Bridgestone really might have left without the deal.

“This agreement means Bridgestone Americas, one of our finest corporate citizens, will not only keep 1,100 employees in Nashville but also bring 600 more here from other states," Mayor Karl Dean said in a statement after the vote. "We could have lost all of those high-paying jobs and the revenue they bring to the city. Bridgestone’s decision to join its businesses under one roof is a huge win for Nashville, and I appreciate the Council’s support.”

The council also passed a new set of regulations that will cover Uber and Lyft, the app-based ridesharing companies that have already been operating in the city for nearly a year. Their regulation-free operation had provoked opposition from traditional cab companies who work amidst a tangled web of various rules and standards. The new regulations will correct that somewhat, but disparities remain, and Transportation Licensing Commission director Billy Fields has said the commission will soon be revisiting the city's taxi ordinance in an effort to level the playing field.

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Haslam Needs Jedi Mind Trickery to Pass Medicaid Expansion

Posted By on Wed, Dec 17, 2014 at 8:00 AM

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It’s great that Gov. Bill Haslam finally has come to his senses and decided to try to expand Medicaid. He’s not exactly Teddy Roosevelt in the political courage department, since he was safely reelected and term limited before he dared to make a move. But better late than never, right?

Now Haslam is saying it's "both morally and fiscally the right thing to do." Which is weird because he dragged his feet for nearly two years and, as recently as a few days ago, he said he might not do it at all.

For pure entertainment value, political junkies couldn’t ask for much more than the show that’s about to start, as the governor tries to push his plan through the GOP supermajority of wingnuts and tinfoil-wrapped freaks in the legislature.

To succeed, he’ll need to perform a Jedi mind trick of epic proportions. It’s not Medicaid expansion. It’s not Obamacare. Hell no. This is "Insure Tennessee," a tailored-for-Tennessee plan that’ll force all these welfare slackers in this state to grovel and put a little skin in the game and learn some damn responsibility before they’re given a dime’s worth of health care.

“We aren’t expanding Medicaid,” Haslam spokeswoman Laura Herzog told Politico. “We unveiled Insure Tennessee.”

Continue reading »

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Civil War Mystery Photo's Mystery Solved in a Day

Posted By on Wed, Dec 17, 2014 at 6:00 AM

Detail of Jacob Coonley's December 15, 1864 picture of soldiers in Nashville.
  • Detail of Jacob Coonley's December 15, 1864 picture of soldiers in Nashville.

Blake Wylie, who asked to be identified as a "noted historian" if he's right, has, in my opinion, pretty definitively solved the question of where the Coonley photo from yesterday was taken. And I'm sad to note that I was wrong. I thought the guys were sitting on Capitol Hill facing roughly toward Fort Casino.

But Wylie got a hold of the huge scans from the Library of Congress and was able to futz with the contrast and brightness to bring out some details not immediately obvious in smaller photos (there are two photos because the photographer was shooting a stereograph—it was intended to be viewed in 3D). One of those details is visible in the photo above. That ghostly image right above the roof lines of the houses is a train trestle.

He uploaded his whole enhanced photo to Flickr and you can look through it yourself. Not only is the trestle visible, you can see that the white spots in the photograph are actually tents, for soldiers. If you look at where the black dots are, Wylie points out that you can see a structure that looks very similar to the buildings we know were at Fort Gillem (where Fisk University is now).

Well, there's only one place in town where you're going to be on a hill, overlooking a train trestle, and can see Fisk off in the distance — Capitol Hill facing Germantown. Here's a contemporary picture from the TSLA for comparison (though you can't see Fisk, because of the trees, but you can see farther than Fisk, because you can see the highrise on the far side of the river in Bordeaux, thus, if there were no trees, you'd be able to see Fisk.).

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I think the hills in the background of both pictures are pretty clearly the same, too.

So, that settles it. Coonley is facing Germantown and the men in the photo are, roughly, looking out Charlotte.

Mystery solved!

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Daily Links: D'Angelo, Witness 40, and FSU

Posted By on Tue, Dec 16, 2014 at 5:00 PM

Every day we read a lot of stuff. If it's interesting, thought provoking, funny or being shared by everyone we know on the Internet, we share some of it with you. Happy reading.

From GQ: Amen! (D'Angelo's Back)

From The Smoking Gun: "Witness 40": Exposing A Fraud In Ferguson

From Grantland: The FSU Problem

From The New York Times Magazine: Off Target on Toy-Gun Regulation

Continue reading »

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School Board Chair's First Steps in Superintendent Search Could Violate State Law

Posted By on Tue, Dec 16, 2014 at 3:31 PM

Metro School Board Chair Sharon Gentry said she’ll meet one-on-one with board members to talk strategy about the upcoming school superintendent search, an action that would violate the state’s Open Meetings Act.

“Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be reaching out to each of our nine board colleagues individually to discuss our strategy for our superintendent search,” Gentry said in a speech Tuesday at the release of the Nashville Chamber of Commerce’s report card on the Metro Schools which hammered the school board for political splintering.

She added she expects other board members to be interested in meeting about how to move forward given many have been stopped around town “about the silence” of how to go about choosing the next schools director.

Members of governing bodies are to deliberate in open meetings, except when discussing pending litigation, according to the Tennessee Open Meetings Act. “No such chance meetings, informal assemblages, or electronic communication shall be used to decide or deliberate public business in circumvention of the spirit or requirements of this part” of the law, according to the act.

“The Open Meetings Act does not allow two members or more to meet privately to deliberate on issues,” said Deborah Fisher, executive director of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government, which advocates for government transparency. “So, if they were to meet privately to talk about what we want in this schools director or how we go about this process, what would our policy be… those are not in line with the Open Meetings Act.”

Continue reading »

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NFD: Here Are Some Tips to Keep Your Christmas Tree From Bursting Into Flames

Posted By on Tue, Dec 16, 2014 at 11:44 AM

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  • Nashville Fire Department

We interrupt your holiday cheer for a public service announcement: Your Christmas tree is a deathtrap waiting to burst into flames consuming all your presents and your home.

Courtesy of the Nashville Fire Department, here are some tips for staying safe this season:

While Christmas tree fires are relatively rare, when they do occur they burn quickly and intensely. To stay safe this holiday, follow these safety tips:
· Water your tree every day
· Make sure your tree is at least 3 feet away from any heat source, including fireplaces, radiators, vents or candles
· Make sure your tree is not blocking an exit
· Use lights that are designed for indoor use and have the label of a recognized testing laboratory, like “UL”
· Replace any lights with worn or damaged cords or loose bulb connections
· Never use lit candles to decorate a tree
· Always turn off your lights before leaving your home or going to bed

Make sure to dispose of your tree when it dries out after the holiday. Metro Nashville Public Works has a Christmas tree recycling program. Drop-off sites can be found at http://www.nashville.gov/News-Media/News-Article/ID/3559/Go-Green-This-Christmas.aspx.

Be safe. Happy holidays.

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Barbic on the ASD: "We Plan to Grow Our Presence Here"

Posted By on Tue, Dec 16, 2014 at 8:00 AM

Over at Tennessee Education Report, there's an interesting Q&A with Chris Barbic, the head of the Achievement School District that just took over Neely's Bend Middle School and will install charter operator LEAD to run it.

The ASD's presence is much larger in Memphis than it is in Nashville. Barbic talks about performance, literacy and the tenor of the education debate now, including this about the district's plans to expand in Nashville:

Will the ASD have a bigger presence in Nashville?

I think that you can’t ignore the fact that the number of priority schools in the city grew from 6 to 15. You can’t ignore the fact the number of kids attending priority schools in Nashville doubled within the last two years from 3,000 to 6,000. That’s a fact.

If we can find partners like LEAD that are willing to do turnarounds in priority schools in Nashville and have a track record and the quality team we believe LEAD has, then yeah, we will expand and we will grow. We will only do it when we feel like we can partner with high performing organizations that will do good work. Assuming we can do that, then we plan to grow our presence here.

It's an interesting interview and worth your time.

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