by Jeff Woods
on Wed, Jun 25, 2008 at 12:03 PM
The mayor’s much-ballyhooed “Project for Student Success” task force released its final report today. While many of the recommendations are obvious—one, for instance, says teachers should take attendance—the whole exercise was almost guaranteed success from the beginning in at least one way: It focused the city on reducing Nashville’s school dropout rates and created a bunch of cheerleaders for that goal. All 40 of the task force’s members—community leaders who spent 1,600 hours over six months studying the problem—are now heavily invested in the making sure something happens.
Mayor Dean took the opportunity to announce a new initiative: He’s developing a coordinated system of after-school programs for middle school students. The task force recommended providing access to better after-school programs as one way to keep kids from dropping out.
“A student doesn’t just wake up one day and decide not to go back to school,” the mayor said. “It’s clear from the work of the task force and other research in this area that the path to dropping out can start as early as elementary and middle school.
“Providing after-school programs that are accessible to all students, especially students identified as at-risk of dropping out, is a proven way to intervene in those students’ lives and provide the support they need to stay in school and be successful.”
Dean's idea is to create "after-school zones," which he says will be coordinated networks of existing programs with consistent standards on the types of services provided. The first zone will be created in one school cluster this fall, he says.
The task force report is available here.
by Jeff Woods
on Wed, Jun 25, 2008 at 11:41 AM
I guess Congressman Jim Cooper has run out of ways to help Nashville. Lately, he’s started crusading against rural electric co-ops that waste the money of their members. He’s written a big paper titled "Electric Co-operatives: From New Deal to Bad Deal?" that was published in the Harvard Journal on Legislation, and he sits on a House committee that’s about to drag in two former officials of a co-op that’s in hot water in Texas.
"Too many electric co-ops have turned away from their historic role as exciting, pro-consumer organizations and have instead taken on deeply troubling anti-consumer behaviors," Cooper writes in his paper.
Too bad, as Cooper’s office concedes, there aren’t any such electric co-ops in his 5th District. But let’s not be selfish. We’re happy to loan our congressman’s time to help other places.
"Fight!" by Jenny-Keith Hughes.
In this week's Desperately Seeking the News, we give you the dish on the Scene's new editor (as of next Tuesday), Pete Kotz, with some reaction to this news of a Rust Belt import taking the reins.
For the column, I contacted a number of folks around town, most notably former Scene media critic Henry Walker, who emailed some comments. After the jump is his reaction to Village Voice Media's editor appointment, followed by VVM executive editor Michael Lacey's rebuttal. Spicy stuff and worth the click. If they'd been sitting across from one another, martinis would have flown. (To correct a factual error from Walker below, we send marketing interns to work those booths, not full-time employees.)
Looks like The Tennessean has finally come to its senses. Well, kind of. This week, the paper raised questions about the low level of scrutiny Metro applied to the new Preds owners—particularly to now-fallen California socialite William “Boots” Del Biaggio.
Brad Schrade writes of the unraveling of the Boots “feel-good narrative,” pointing out that it “should have always seemed a little too good to be true.” Too bad The Tennessean fell for that fairy tale harder than anyone.
Perhaps Schrade didn't read John Glennon's piece last August, which touted Boots as a well-heeled, much-needed addition to the local owners' group. The headline says it all: “Predators supporters find a hero.” Where was the scrutiny then, guys?
Oh, the hypocrisy. Must be a little embarrassing.
by Matt Pulle
on Tue, Jun 24, 2008 at 1:52 PM
click to enlarge
Outside of our own newsroom, which may or may not be in a state of shock due to recent events, there's not a whole lot to blog about. No swims across the Cumberland, no mishaps from our friends at Waller, no self-aggrandizing statements from Bredesen, no additional setbacks for Gus Puryear and CCA. And honestly, I can't possibly pretend to be interested in the Tuke-Padgett race, which is about as interesting—and consequential—as an beauty contest in Hendersonville.
So when times are desperate at Pith and we are mired in a serious case of bloggers' block, we turn to that old familiar standby: poking fun at Mayor Karl Dean's schedule. It's the one thing that never lets us down. We don't get it: What exactly does the mayor do again? The Metro Council passed his anemic budget and the state runs the school system, which leaves the mayor showing up at a picnic in Berry Hill. Seriously.
Well, we already know how the Nashville-based Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has dealt with women who have come forward with claims (and infallible proof, like paternity judgments) that they were sexually abused by SBC pastors as young girls. If you haven't read this story, here's a summary of the SBC response to victims' calls for help: “Abuse is sad. But because of that pesky matter of church autonomy, we can't remove predatory pastors from the pulpit. Please stop calling and emailing about your suffering. Our hands are tied, but we hear prayer heals all wounds. God bless.”
Now that the SBC's executive committee has spent a year coming up with reasons why they can't create an online database of pastors who have been convicted or credibly accused of sexual abuse, the boys club has a whole new question to tackle: Should the women folk be allowed to stand in the pulpit?
Per a new motion made at this month's SBC convention, the executive committee will now look into whether its constitution should be amended to ensure that churches with female senior pastors should be stripped of SBC affiliation. Should be interesting, seeing as how the SBC has refused to blackball churches whose male senior pastors have admitted to having sex with teenage members of their congregation.
Any guesses on how this one will turn out?
by Matt Pulle
on Mon, Jun 23, 2008 at 9:55 AM
It's as if The Tennessean is avidly pursuing extinction. Today, the paper's business section is just over two pages—and includes exactly one local story. What do they do over there, anyway? My guess is that people would rather read about the terrible Tennessee economy or the slumping music industry than a couple of pet and shopping blogs. Right?
Guys, you're a daily newspaper. That means you publish something of note every day. It doesn't even have to be good, but just give us something, k?
Folks, I get lamer and lamer with each passing day. So it's time to announce what the Scene 3.0 will look like. Replacing me on July 1 will be Pete Kotz, the "alleged" editor of our sister paper in Cleveland, also called the Scene, which is being bought and merged with the other alt-weekly there, Free Times.
I know Pete from editors' meetings and conventions and can say unequivocally that he's a wonderful guy, a talented journalist and a good soul, if not the "dangerously handsome man" he claims to be. He has five kids, loves to "bust a phrase," holds dear the value of a great story, and prefers to chase his whiskey with beer. He's a rabble-rouser of the best sort whose wardrobe is even worse than Jeff Woods'.
He will no doubt complement the incredibly talented editorial staff here, all of whom know their beats and craft better than any in the city.
And with any luck, we'll swiftly get his caricature up here on Pith in place of mine.
by Matt Pulle
on Fri, Jun 20, 2008 at 2:43 PM
click to enlarge
The Great Cumberland Swimathon was an unmitigated disaster. The water damaged our lungs and skin while giant, smelly catfish gnawed on our bellies. Or was that just the prick of the floating syringes?. None of us could tell, and it didn't matter. We were living a nightmare and, worst of all, it was of our own design. On a mild Thursday at 5:30 p.m., we volunteered to swim across the Cumberland River from a downtown dock to a rocky beach on the East Bank in the shadow of the Titans stadium, even though we were warned that we were scripting a real-life horror show. And yet we proceeded onward, oblivious to what lay ahead.
Even before we could finish, many of the swimmers developed violent hacking coughs, while one older man, who had toiled honorably for years in the Metro Water Department, couldn't handle the current and was swept down the Cumberland toward Bells Bends as he cried out to the heavens. As of press time, Metro Police helicopters were scouring the river banks for the body.