Across the city and, more importantly, on Metro's school board, there is growing consensus that Nashville schools director Pedro Garcia should move on. Sources tell the Scene
he's trying to do just that, having quietly applied and interviewed last week
in San Diego, a district that hopes to install a new superintendent by year's end (but may have an announcement as early as Dec. 18).
The possible opportunity in San Diego comes at a time when Garcia’s popularity in Nashville is ebbing and his future here is uncertain. Although his current contract runs through 2010, the school board will approach his annual performance review in January with a critical eye, according to recent reports
. A popular figure in his first few years after coming to Nashville, Garcia has evolved into a controversial system head whose imperious leadership style is thought by many to have undermined teacher and principal morale while alienating parents. In the last couple of years, Garcia has found himself encountering increasing resistance to his ideas for system reform, including a balanced calendar (rejected by the school board after much public opposition), standard school attire (in place systemwide since August, over the strident objections of a vocal minority), citywide school rezoning (put on hold by the school board after much public opposition) and single-gender classrooms (in place experimentally in some schools but apparently receiving a cool reception from the board).
Now, with MNPS placed
in “corrective action” status by the Tennessee Department of Education because of the system’s underperformance on federal No Child Left Behind academic achievement benchmarks, it appears that the school board (which itself could be taken over if the state were so inclined) may be more interested in reforming Garcia than in Garcia’s reforms.
Across the board, education officials the Scene
asked for on-the-record comment either feigned ignorance about this development or cryptically declined.
While this news could well incite familiar invective, complaining emails in all caps between parent groups or blood-thirsty political rantings from Metro Council members elucidating the reasons why Garcia has worn out his welcome here, that wouldn't be constructive. The story line is not simply that Garcia has outgrown Nashville—or that it has outgrown him—and hopes to see Bransford Avenue in his rear view mirror. It's that Nashville is poised to embrace a new visionary whose leadership will directly affect more than 70,000 Metro students.