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Comment Archives: stories: News: City Limits

Re: “School-board gadfly Will Pinkston regrets little about his contentious tenure so far — and apologizes for less

Could you have done anything better Will instead of being such an A-hole the entire time?

"Probably [I] would have tried to build better relationships with other board members to try to persuade them of my positions"

In other words, I could have done a better job to control other people to get them to do what I want.

The huge narcissism in Pinkston just oozes out of this article. What a shame he lives in Nashville and the students of MNPS have to bear the brunt of his sh*t.

12 likes, 17 dislikes
Posted by pipes on 06/11/2015 at 10:35 AM

Re: “School-board gadfly Will Pinkston regrets little about his contentious tenure so far — and apologizes for less

Consider that you may have cause-and-effect mixed up. Someone may not support charters because she works for TFA, but she works for TFA because she supports charters.

As noted above, being part of the local political conversation is difficult, professionally and personally. I don't think these board members are getting rich off these positions, and "school board member" isn't a guaranteed springboard to future office. I appreciate their work, although it seems I don't particularly agree with 1/2 of them.

Future school board members should skip to the last Q&A and heed that advice.

6 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by Diatribean!!! on 06/11/2015 at 8:28 AM

Re: “School-board gadfly Will Pinkston regrets little about his contentious tenure so far — and apologizes for less

Pinkston's approach on the issues has been covered ad nauseam by Nashville's media, particularly the Scene. Why not try to delve deeper into the Board and its member agendas and what role those agendas play in the so-called 'disfunction' of the Board? An example would be Elissa Kim, who received gobs of money from special interests during her campaign. She also works for Teach for America, an organization with deep charter ties. In my thinking, Kim's obligation to these interests would create an intransigence on Board issues would equal that of Pinkston. Indeed, I've never been able to figure out how her position on the Board is not a conflict of interest. Because all Scene articles seem to focus on Pinkston and to a lesser extent Amy Frogge, I do not know if my notion about Kim is fair or not. I would greatly appreciate if Ms. Zelinski could broaden her coverage of the Board's members during this important juncture in Nashville public education.

32 likes, 6 dislikes
Posted by Mondo Gonzo on 06/11/2015 at 7:36 AM

Re: “What if both sides of the charters vs. district schools debate are right?

The response from Todd Dickson is appreciated.


Note: Do not infer endorsement.

7 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by Diatribean!!! on 06/10/2015 at 8:31 AM

Re: “What if both sides of the charters vs. district schools debate are right?

As the founder of Valor, I thought I might add some information to this chain. First, it has been our vision all along to bring a mixture of families to Valor, as we believe that having 50% lower income, and 50% middle income in the same school is the optimal experience for all families. We realize that not everyone agrees with this approach, but we have been very transparent that we believe that this is the ideal that public schools should strive for. We also realize that having such a wide range of preparation levels in a single school (we have kids this year that ranged from pre-K to 11th grade in 5th grade!) is a very complex and challenging task, and we hope to be able to share some innovative ways of being able to do it well with other MNPS schools as we take on this challenge. It would be my hope that all schools in Nashville begin to have more heterogenuous student populations in the upcoming years, as I believe that the best public schools of the future, and the best Cities of the future, will have richly diverse schools that are the foundational experience for families in understanding and ultimately caring for each other. Unfortunately, the current zoned school model often only reinforces segregation - diverse schools of choice offer a chance to have diverse families choose to attend school together. (This isn't always the case of course, but is the case too often).

As far as recruiting, we door knock very specifically on middle income and low income doors in order to try to get our 50%/50% goal. We don't care at all what their academic backgrounds are - we truly want to get a richly diverse group of kids and don't know/care how they performed in the previous years. We had an amazing founding class this year that had students with special needs, students who were expelled from multiple elementary schools, and students from elite private schools - all choosing to go to school together! I would ask anyone to come visit before making judgements about who is attending Valor.

For the waitlist: I believe we have one of the longest waitlists in the City for 5th grade. We have two middle schools next year with about 310 students enrolled (155 at each school). We also have an additional 100 kids on the waitlist for 5th grade. Unlike what was posited in the comments above, we didn't have our own lottery to wait for magnet school kids, we opted out because we were worried that we wouldn't be able to maintain our 50%/50% split (and worried that it would lean more towards the middle income) if we didn't keep control of the process. We have been talking with the District about possibly putting in a protection for 50% of the seats for low-income families so that we would feel more comfortable with doing the MNPS lottery soon. We do think it is the best long-term plan to have all schools do a common enrollment plan and do feel guilty that we haven't participated yet. We did struggle more than we thought in getting 6th graders to apply to School 2 this year - we found that once families had made a decision to attend a certain middle school they were not that likely to switch a year later. We therefore did not have a waitlist for 6th grade this year until this past week. The concern about not accepting kids after 5th grade: we tried to model a typical attrition rate each year (MNPS average of 7% mobility/attrition) so that we could better budget/staff each year. We do anticipate taking some kids each year and welcome applications in 6th, 7th,8th grade and beyond and should have a few spots available for interested families just like any other public school.

Arts curriculum: someone stated that we had eliminated arts in order to focus on TCAPs. Please come visit! We definitely have a passion for electives like art, music, etc. What is confusing to some is that we have a unique schedule where students take 8 weeks of core academic courses and then 2 weeks of in-depth elective courses over a 10 week quarter. These minutes add up to a very similar amount of electives and academics as a typical school - they are just used differently. But kids at Valor get lots and lots of interesting elective courses, including arts. And no, we aren't that into TCAP preparation. We did extremely well on the TCAP this year and we are proud or our kids efforts, but we don't think the TCAP is a very useful or rigorous measurement of learning.

Innovations: Probably the most innovative things we do: 1) really cool social-emotional learning. We have developed a great curriculum that teaches our kids about having sharp minds, big hearts, noble purpose, aligned actions, and a sense of balance (True North). We spend significant time in mentor groups (each teacher has a mentor group of 20 kids) working on specific skills in these areas, as well as integrate these concepts and skills across our academic curriculum. 2) teacher training: we partner with Vanderbilt, Lipscomb, and Belmont to help train new teachers in our model. We have Apprentice teachers that we help develop over an entire year to be great teachers. Many of these teacers we hope will go into MNPS schools to be future star educators across the City. 3) Restorative Justice: we do interesting work around discipline and restorative justice - focusing on making mistakes into communal learning experiences that help all members of our community grow. 4) Project based learning: our Expedition courses and badge projects in our courses are really interesting examples of PBL and could be interesting/helpful to other schools.

Privatizers dismantling public education: I can't speak for all charter folks, but this charge hurts the most. I wish whoever said this was required to stay up until 2am in the morning with me the figure out how to make our budget barely work on the public funds that we receive. There may be money to be made off of facilities in charter schools, and possibly off of a few bad apples who pay themselves too large of salaries, but for the vast majority of us it is a mighty, mighty struggle to start a school from scratch, pay for your own facility, and then still compete with local public schools even though the total amount you have after facility costs is close to .85 cents to a dollar. It is also very hurtful to all of the hard working teachers and kids in these schools to have to read about how they are greedy privatizers. If there is a place to be worried about corporations in public schools, it is in the assessment and curriculum industries, not the charter industry.

Overall, Valor is trying to be a positive, diverse, collaborative addition to Nashville. We realize that this is a complicated debate, but we aim to engage in it positively and productively. If anyone ever has questions about our recruiting, curriculum, budget, etc. feel free to email me at tdickson@valorcollegiate.org and I will be happy to share/talk it over with you.

Thanks to everyone for your passion and engagement in improving public education in Nashville - it is truly better to disagree passionately than to have apathy. :)

Todd Dickson

13 likes, 2 dislikes
Posted by Todd Dickson on 06/09/2015 at 11:43 PM

Re: “Once again, the mayor stumbles when he needs to build public support for projects

These latest proposals, relocation of Police & Jail along with "The Wall", were presented to the public at the last minutes with the so-called studies and backup for their benefits and cost totally suspicious. Did the Mayor really think that having the Director of Water and the Sheriff present their studies, publicity, and backup "facts" really get the public buy in required? The cost of each means other things needed badly across the county get set back for even more years if ever.

Candidate Freeman's buy in on all these projects along with his SEIU endorsement and pandering to all other Metro departments sounds to this reader as more of the same with he as Mayor. The council will do the community a large disservice if these projects aren't delayed to after elections

1 like, 1 dislike
Posted by NeverFear on 06/09/2015 at 5:50 AM

Re: “Considering one of history's mysteries: whether a Cherokee operative betrayed his people at the Battle of Buchanan's Station — and saved Nashville

Thank you Betsy, this is a great article. I do have one question about Joseph Deraque. I have read that he was with Timothy Demonbruen in Kaskaskia, Ill. and Fort Vincennes at the time Colonel George Rogers Clark took Kaskaskia in 1778. At that time Timothy and a Joseph Derratt took the Oath of Allegiance to America. If this is the same Joseph Deraque, Durock, Derratt, it would seem he knew Timothy Demonbruen well before this spying episode. Perhaps Joseph Deraque did not change his mind, but was a double agent from the beginning. I think your assessment of Finnelston's recognition of Bloody Fellow's weaknesses was spot on. I also think that trekking out with someone who had already allied with the Americans might have been a minor, but crucial, influence in his decision.

Posted by Caty on 06/08/2015 at 9:32 AM

Re: “What if both sides of the charters vs. district schools debate are right?

Thank you Full of Valor for saying the things many won't

7 likes, 9 dislikes
Posted by Thomas Weber on 06/08/2015 at 8:01 AM

Re: “What if both sides of the charters vs. district schools debate are right?

Happy to oblige. Valor intends to build on the grounds of Christ Church, on Old Hickory Blvd, right along the Williamson County line. They try to keep their percentage of students on free and reduced lunch at 50%, which is lower than any middle school in the Overton cluster, the area in which they are located. They heavily knock on doors and send mailers and recruit from Green Hills. They do not participate in the MNPS lottery, but wait until the MNPS lottery is over, which allows them to recruit students who did not get a spot in a magnet school. Please feel free to confirm any of this, as well as the other "innovations" with Valor personnel and correct anything on which I am mistaken.

12 likes, 12 dislikes
Posted by Full of Valor! Or full of something! on 06/05/2015 at 6:25 PM

Re: “What if both sides of the charters vs. district schools debate are right?

Full of something: yes you are. It ain't valor. You just make stuff up. Please cite proof of recruiting or anything else.

11 likes, 10 dislikes
Posted by here we go again on 06/05/2015 at 4:28 PM

Re: “Once again, the mayor stumbles when he needs to build public support for projects

Don't forget Dean's rush to give the wealthy Sounds a new playpen--with millions in cost overruns.
The bridge to nowhere in the Gulch because the extra wide sidewalks and bike lane on the new Demonbreun St bridge are "inadequate" for Hizzoner.
Will there be a flood wall against Gibson Creek in Madison which has flooded at least TWICE in the past 5 years? Mill Creek?
The sudden rush to give in to extortion(a criminal offense of obtaining money, property, or services) by Firestone--give us 65 million or else.

And on and on.

10 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by Kosh III on 06/05/2015 at 2:20 PM

Re: “What if both sides of the charters vs. district schools debate are right?

"Also, it never seems to sink in to charter opponents that state law only allows not for profit entities to run charter schools. Please stop repeating that."

The reason that charter skeptics don't let that go is because there is plenty of evidence that in many places the non-profit requirements are in name only. With no knowledge of the specific state of this dynamic here I make no inferences about Nashville charters. But to understand the general contours of the issue check out reporting that Pro-Publica's Marian Wang has done on so-called' sweeps contracts,' here (http://is.gd/wDEbBi) and here (http://is.gd/jD7PYD). Turns out there are lots of profits to be made in non-profit education.

9 likes, 4 dislikes
Posted by bb on 06/05/2015 at 1:20 PM

Re: “What if both sides of the charters vs. district schools debate are right?

I'd like a bratwurst. A thick, thick, charred black bratwurst.

2 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by mrsjimcollins on 06/05/2015 at 7:27 AM

Re: “What if both sides of the charters vs. district schools debate are right?

To Mr. Cavendish's point: "And unless they're trying to get rid of district schools altogether, charter advocates need to embrace a more strategic approach to opening new schools."

Yes, charter advocates are trying to get rid of district schools altogether. This is absolutely why they don't want to talk about any restraints on charter school growth. Many of the leading advocates will openly say this in conversation when they are not worried about their dishonest public talking points in which they claim to be "agnostic about school type." They are utterly unconcerned about the impact charter schools openings have on district schools, because the existence of district schools is not in their long rage plan. This is why supporters of district schools have a hard time working hand in hand with advocates who would like to see district schools falter and disappear.

24 likes, 10 dislikes
Posted by Full of Valor! Or full of something! on 06/04/2015 at 8:57 PM

Re: “What if both sides of the charters vs. district schools debate are right?

You forgot the part where the LEAD graduating class was a lot larger when those kids were freshmen.

18 likes, 7 dislikes
Posted by Amy Powell Phelan on 06/04/2015 at 8:54 PM

Re: “What if both sides of the charters vs. district schools debate are right?

Valor CERTAINLY has some exciting innovations going on!! These innovations include specifically targeting kids with high TCAP scores for recruitment - genius! And keeping the percentage of students in poverty at a lower level than other Overton cluster middle schools by recruiting wealthy students from Green Hills - wow! Also, after this year they won't take any students after 5th grade, thus totally exempting themselves from district challenges about student mobility, and excluding our most vulnerable, transient students. Thanks for doing the heavy lifting, guys! To top it all off, they have COMPLETELY ELIMINATED RELATED ARTS!! That's right, no music, no art classes, no teachers for these subjects. Way to save some cash and spend time on getting those TCAP scores up! This, my friends, is the education of the future! I can't wait for the Valor folks to come back and compare their test scores to the surrounding Overton cluster schools to show proof that their teachers and their "innovations with curriculum" did the trick. And then the media will fall over backwards to pat them on the back because there will be "real data to support their success." This scam is off to a great start, and it'll only get better when they move their campus to right along the Williamson County line! Brilliant!

27 likes, 13 dislikes
Posted by Full of Valor! Or full of something! on 06/04/2015 at 8:37 PM

Re: “What if both sides of the charters vs. district schools debate are right?

This was a balanced article. To Mr. Trotter:

1. The students are not better, measured by reading or math grade level. Parents MAY be more involved, but that doesn't explain the improved performance in takeovers, where parents were not a controlling factor. Actually charter schools do have special ed and ELL students in roughly the same ratios as other schools. Also, it never seems to sink in to charter opponents that state law only allows not for profit entities to run charter schools. Please stop repeating that.

2. See #1 above. Also we should give all schools the same freedoms and opportunities, and hold them all accountable in the same way.

3. We strongly need a integrated school improvement strategy, one that includes charters, magnets, zoned et al. We need to take what works and replicate it and stop trying to isolate charters as lepers.

4. The one true disadvantage charter schools must overcome is they must provide their own buildings, and pay for them out of either fundraising, borrowing or their per student stipend. (Transportation also is not covered.) Why should we not co-locate charters in these under utilized buildings? Why is that not an effective and efficient use of resources?

13 likes, 20 dislikes
Posted by herewegoagain on 06/04/2015 at 5:30 PM

Re: “What if both sides of the charters vs. district schools debate are right?

The success is based on cherry picking students who have involved parents and potential or success. They minimal discipline issues and very few exceptional Ed students. That is not reproducible because zoned school serves as the "alternative" school to any student who does not conform to the "culture". MNPS has to serve any and every kid who walks through the door and can't send them to the school up te road when it doesn't work out.

17 likes, 9 dislikes
Posted by ontomorrow on 06/04/2015 at 5:21 PM

Re: “Once again, the mayor stumbles when he needs to build public support for projects

The argument that Mayor Dean, the Downtown Partnership, the Chamber, and others are making and the statistics they’re citing in support of the flood wall with pumps proposal are bogus. This is not about all, or even much of Downtown, most of which was built uphill for a reason. It’s about the sliver of Downtown that has been built, and is being built, on the floodplain, which we used to have sense enough not to build on. When the Country Music Foundation built their Hall of Fame & Museum, they knew not to include a basement and to put their valuables on the upper floors, and they suffered minimal damage in the 2010 flood. The Symphony, however, put in a basement to store grand pianos and high-tech equipment, and flood damage to the Symphony Center was catastrophic. I wonder if we would even be seeing a flood wall and pumps proposal if the symphony and the Pinnacle had given more credibility to what must have been warnings regarding the risks of bottom land basements. The pumps are not to protect Downtown from a Cumberland flood. They’re mainly to protect bottom land basements from uphill Downtown runoff. I don’t think any of us residents (or hotel guests) in the Central Business Improvement District--except those on the first floor of the Market Street Apartments or any who might have left their cars parked in an underground garage--were threatened by the 2010 flood. If the water gets even close to where any of the rest of us live, pumps and flood walls are not going to help. If lives are at risk elsewhere in Nashville, it seems someone ought to be able to say that’s where the money should go without being accused of not being “We are Nashville” enough.

14 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by Downtown Resident on 06/04/2015 at 4:42 PM

Re: “What if both sides of the charters vs. district schools debate are right?

Doug Trotter is absolutely correct on all counts. Steve Cavendish, your article shows that you did not attempt to truly understand the real arguments of charter opponents.

21 likes, 10 dislikes
Posted by david.price.18062533 on 06/04/2015 at 4:01 PM

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