Tuesday’s Metro Nashville Public Schools board meeting was the last for District 4 representative John Little, District 6 representative Fran Bush and District 8 representative Gini Pupo-Walker. On Aug. 31, their newly elected replacements will be sworn in. Berthena Nabaa-McKinney will represent District 4, former school board member Cheryl Mayes will replace Bush, and Erin O’Hara Block will replace Pupo-Walker.
The board (apart from Freda Player-Peters and Fran Bush, who were not in attendance for the governance meeting) passed updated policies as stated on the agenda, including those related to school board meeting notices, library book procedures in alignment with new state laws, internet-related vendor policies and retired employees. The board also passed an education equity policy, but removed an aspect that states: “The Director of Schools shall develop plans to ensure equitable access to and success in advanced academics[,] address discipline disparities [and] reduce barriers for students who receive exceptional education services in order to close opportunity gaps.” This portion was removed so as not to create standards that limit future work surrounding equitable advanced academics.
Awards and Recognition
To start off the meeting, Director of Schools Adrienne Battle recognized the first and second cohorts of MNPS staff who are now serving teachers or paraprofessionals through MNPS’ Grow Your Own Teacher Development Initiative. This program utilizes partnerships between MNPS, the Tennessee Department of Education and teacher training programs to allow MNPS support staff to become certified educators at no cost.
The director's report began with a brief update on COVID-19. For the week of Aug. 15-21, 473 students and 104 staff were confirmed positive. Weekly updates can be found on the district’s COVID-19 tracker page.
Battle also celebrated the level-five ratings that MNPS scored on the Tennessee Value Added Assessment System. The system uses state test scores to measure student growth. Level five is the highest rating, indicating that students grew more than expected, and MNPS has not received a rating this high since 2015. MNPS received a level-five rating in numeracy and literacy, a level-four rating in social studies and a level-three rating in science — level three indicates expected growth. Despite the TVAAS scores, the majority of MNPS students are still not on track academically.
MNPS will add elementary school sports options, including cross country and soccer, and high school sports will see unified track-and-field expansion, along with the addition of girls' flag football. Battle also discussed how the district is looking into health insurance coverage for students participating in sports. “Some of our students are not eligible to receive health care coverage and because of this can’t participate in sports,” said Battle. The district is working to eliminate that barrier, and the board passed a related contract proposal later Tuesday night.
Executive officer for diversity, equity and inclusion Ashford Hughes approached the board to give updates on the district’s Equity Roadmap. The updates included how the district has worked to prioritize educational equity and how that work should play into decision-making processes for all MNPS staff members. Hughes also discussed ongoing work to facilitate an equity progress committee that includes district leaders, teachers and community members, and how it will provide information to the district and monitor progress.
Consent Agenda and Additional Discussion
The board passed the consent agenda unanimously (though Freda Player-Peters was not in attendance). It also unanimously passed a resolution for racial equity in advanced academics — an issue that representatives of Nashville Organized for Action and Hope have been advocating for. NOAH members were in the audience, and cheered when the resolution was passed.
Per the request of District 9 rep Abigail Tylor, the board also discussed the COVID-19 leave policy for teachers. After Labor Day, teachers will no longer be able to work remotely due to state law. While teachers have 10 sick days, Tylor expressed concern that they’ll have to use them up quickly if they have to quarantine, and any sick days after that will lead to a decreased paycheck. Battle maintained that the district has to follow state laws and that she didn’t have any related recommendations. Tylor asked if there are ways to work around it, such as letting teachers opt into virtual professional development days if they’re quarantining, to which Battle referenced existing policies regarding professional development days. Tylor requested to discuss this with Battle moving forward.