Over at the City Paper, Pierce Greenberg has an interview with Fisk University's new president, H. James Williams.
The whole thing is worth a read, both for the news it delivers — Williams says, "Well, they’re worse than I thought, financially" — and Williams' attitude toward it, "I think we’re going to be able to get things done that need to be done, and we’ve begun some of the hard work already."
He talks about the things he's already done:
By the time I took over, we had incurred — we’d already incurred a deficit beyond what I expected, and so we had to get to work right away to try to adjust so that we can do what we need to do to balance the revenues with the expenses, or balance the expenses with the revenues.
I’m sure you guys heard about the furloughs and cuts, so we did that early on and that was an interesting experience because the last thing I wanted to do as the new person is to do that.
—and their new recruitment strategies.
The thing that strikes me is that everything about the interview has the ring of truth. For the first time in a long time, someone seems to have a handle on exactly how bad things are at Fisk and is willing to speak frankly about it. You cannot solve a problem until you can look full on at it and say what you see. Williams is doing that.
And that makes his optimism more telling. Yes, he acknowledges, things are going to be tough, but he seems to have a clear plan for how to improve things.
My fingers are crossed for him. Fisk is among the crown jewels of Nashville's important historical and cultural sites. If Williams can put Fisk back on solid footing, he'll be doing good for the university and the whole city.
Among the casualties are school vouchers and making it easier for disgruntled parents to throw out their school administrators.
“I think we gave the impression that we were forcing a whole lot of stuff down folks’ throats,” says Rep. John DeBerry, D-Memphis, who sponsored the parent-trigger bill. “And perception is reality.”
Reality is reality too.
But wait—it's never too late to exploit schoolchildren for corporate cash. Senate Education Committee chair Dolores Gresham has resurrected legislation to allow for-profit charter schools in Tennessee.
"As we all know, charter schools are an important part of ongoing education reform. Now that we see the real value of charter schools, now we have one more step," Gresham said as her bill cleared her committee last week.
Over at The City Paper, Metro school board member Will Pinkston has penned an op-ed on Nashville's ongoing education debate. He says it's time for a reboot.
As a member of the Nashville School Board and the board’s delegate to the MNPS charter review process, I believe now is the time to reboot the conversation. Yes, charters are part of the solution. But there’s a lot more to education reform.
Someone on the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce’s Education Committee recently challenged me to help make way for more charter schools by “rightsizing” the school system’s operations — a business term typically associated with layoffs and facility closures. In a school system that’s expected to grow by 15 percent over the next decade, I don’t foresee workforce reductions. But like any big organization, MNPS needs to improve efficiencies. And we will.
Now, I’d like to challenge the charter movement to help rightsize the education conversation in Nashville. The reality is: If we truly care about improving public education, then placing all our bets on charters is misguided. Typically, charters set out to reform the system 100 kids at a time. Meanwhile, MNPS has 81,000 students and 6,000 teachers — the vast majority of whom are in existing schools that need and deserve our support. The public debate over charters has been healthy, to a point. But now it’s distracting from a broader set of efforts.
I met with Senator Gresham, and I met with Senator Kelsey, hoping we could come to some compromise. I think Senator Gresham would have gone with just the governor's plan and that's it. But Senator Kelsey seemed to be bound and determined.
Honestly, I disagree with that. I think something's better than nothing. Sometimes, the search of perfection stands in the way of good. At least we should have had good and moved forward some. But I left it up to the committee and that's where we ended up. After the negotiation went back and forth, the governor said, we'll just come back and do this next year.
Kelsey, a rich white kid from Germantown who thinks he knows what's best for poor black children in this state, now says he'll try to find another bill to amend to press for his own version of vouchers. But Ramsey said he'll quash that idea.
"I would discourage that highly," the speaker said. "This is something that needs to go through the committee. That's why we have a committee system. This is too big an issue to hijack a bill on the Senate floor."
At least we don't have to worry anymore this session about giving vouchers to Muslim kids.
[P]ay attention to Inglewood, California. Only a decade ago, conservatives said that Inglewood was a miracle district and hailed the success of its public schools in producing high test scores despite high poverty. Then the charters began opening and 6,000 students enrolled in charters. That was 1/3 of the district’s students. The district laid off teachers, cut programs, increased clas sizes, an finally collapsed into bankruptcy.
In another post, she slapped Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman for refusing to meet with the Metro school board over its fears that the charter authorizer will bankrupt Nashville's schools.
He certainly lacks any political skills. He treats the duly elected Metro Nashville school board as if they are peons and he is their master. He refuses to meet with them. Where did he get these arrogance.
The school board voted 8-0 yesterday to authorize Superintendent Jesse Register to hire independent legal counsel to explore their options if charter authorizer bill passes.
“This is an issue we must address,” state Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, said. “I don’t know whether we can simply amend the bill in such a way that will fix the issue at this point.”
“This issue gives me pause in voting for the governor’s voucher proposal,” Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, agreed. “These issues warrant further assessment. What’s the rush? Do we need to send these proposals to summer study (committee)?”
The voucher bill is on the agenda in House and Senate committees again this week.
From the left coast, a note from the Los Angeles Times on Michelle Rhee's habit of getting evasive when it comes to whether she is a "public school parent."
In this case, Rhee's spokeswoman, Erin Shaw, told the paper that Rhee was a "public school parent."
So The Times reported that Rhee's two children attend public school. After the story ran in Wednesday’s newspaper, one of Rhee’s biggest critics, the American Federation of Teachers, challenged that statement, saying that one of her daughters attends a private school in Tennessee, where her ex-husband lives.
The Times asked Rhee's spokeswoman again about what type of school Rhee's children attend.
Shaw declined to answer the question directly. Instead, after multiple emails and phone calls from Times reporters, she issued a statement apologizing for “misleading” the newspaper with her initial response.
“It was not our intention to be misleading. It is our policy not to discuss where Michelle's children attend school out of respect for their privacy,” the statement says. “While it is true Michelle is a public school parent, we understand how that statement was misleading, and we apologize to the Los Angeles Times.”
Asked whether those remarks indicate that at least one of Rhee's children attends private school, Shaw again declined to answer.
They go on to cite an interview with our colleague Andrea Zelinski at The City Paper, in which Rhee herself said she was a "public school parent" but declined to clarify any further. We noted here at the time that education historian and commentator Diane Ravitch had caught wind of the interview and claimed that one of Rhee's children goes to Harpeth Hall, a private school for girls here in Nashville.
Note (11:00 a.m.): If you're just tuning in, Michelle Rhee is the former Washington, D.C., schools chancellor who now heads up the education advocacy and lobbying organization StudentsFirst, through which she has supported a number of pro-voucher, pro-charter school candidates in Tennessee and elsewhere.
Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, says he wants officials to "explain the academic merits of a seminar on oral sex."
Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, says Sex Week promotes "a hook-up culture," and it's "treating sex as something frivolous" when everyone knows sex will lead to the destruction of America.
"They're going to have to decide what they want on campus," he said. "When you have an anything-goes attitude with sex, which Sex Week seems to be promoting, it's not a big jump from anything goes... to crossing the line to criminality."
We agree with Dunn that university officials have a choice to make. Either they stand up to these lawmakers, or they lose all self-respect and dignity.
Given that fanatics (as Sex Week organizer Brianna Rader accurately labels them) are running the legislature, university officials will face more situations exactly like this: Will they surrender all pretext of academic integrity by constantly caving to the crazies? By the way, we love it that Planned Parenthood kicked in $1,000 to help rescue Sex Week. That's sticking it in their eye!
A Haslam scholar, Rader discusses these issues in this interview with the Center for American Progress. She points out the university sponsors an annual Darwin Day. Is that the next target of conservative Christians?
I’m extremely disappointed in the university’s administration and leadership in the decision they made. I understand it was a difficult situation. We are a public university and we have some state representatives that are fanatics, and they threatened to take some of the budget away from us. However, at a certain point, a university is a university, and you have to stick to your core values. And those core values are promoting education, conversation, exploration of ideas—if that can’t take place at a research one level public university, the state’s “flagship university,” then I am extremely worried about the future of education in my state.
The university announced the decision this evening, giving university president Joe DiPietro and chancellor Jimmy Cheek the opportunity to grovel before the Bible-thumpers.
"We support the process and the students involved but we should not use state funds in this manner," Cheek clucked disapprovingly.
"The university is accountable to the General Assembly, the governor and the people of Tennessee for the use of state tax dollars," DiPietro said. "The university's three-part mission is to provide education, research and public service, and the state allocates this funding to help us fulfill the mission. Some activities planned as part of Sex Week are not an appropriate use of state tax dollars."
Sex Week presumably will go on in some fashion. According to the university, organizers will keep $6,700 in student programming dollars, but $11,145 from academic programs and departments will no longer be available. We doubt this will satisfy Campfield and Fowler, who'd like to see the whole event canceled, so yet more university kowtowing might be required.
Update: MetroPulse asks, "Does the UTK Administration Suck? Or Does It Blow?"
About as seriously as bobs invitation to Lock 2 Park.
@Jim Collins: Nixon knew nothing about Watergate until after the fact. He lied under oath…
zumba is like a bad gonorreah contracted from gast, it keeps coming, and coming, and…
is anyone in here taking gast and bobs guns seriously?
We should invite Goad back to town and show him the real Nashville - have…