MNPS Board

The Metro Nashville Public Schools board wrapped up its last meeting of the year on Tuesday, along with two committee meetings, an executive session, a deferred teacher termination hearing and a Beyonc dance session. The public comment portion of the meeting saw some tension between board members and representatives of Purpose Preparatory Academy about the charter school's number of economically disadvantaged students.

Committees

A short budget committee meeting considered and ultimately passed amendments to the 2022-2023 operating budget. The amendments did not require any additional dollars, but sought to add additional HR positions and fund two English-learner-related positions that were previously supported by a grant. (See page 27 of the meeting’s agenda for detailed salary descriptions.) These positions will be funded with money from vacancies and turnover.

The governance meeting considered four policy updates, all of which were approved. Perhaps the most notable discussion from the governance meeting came from board chair and District 2 representative Rachael Anne Elrod, who discussed some quasi-changes to the board’s public participation procedure. The language of the current policy states, “If an individual wishes to address the board on an item on the agenda, he/she may sign up on the form provided before the beginning of the board meeting to request time to speak.” While no changes to the policy were made, Elrod expressed her intention to start following that aspect of the policy and only let people comment on items from the agenda. District 9 representative Abigail Tylor expressed concern about this change.

“My goal, of course, is not to limit people talking to us about any of the concerns that they have," said Elrod. "I take the role of us making sure that we are streamlining all of our practices, and making sure that we’re as efficient as possible, really quite seriously."

Awards and recognition 

Director of Schools Adrienne Battle recognized MNPS’ budget staff, who received a Meritorious Budget Award from the Association of School Business Officials International. Battle also congratulated Meredith McGinnis and Ashley Haley, two MNPS teachers who won Fulbright teaching awards. The football teams from East High School and Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School showed up to celebrate their accomplishments as Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association finalists. Cane Ridge High School’s Mose Phillips III was also recognized for winning the William Hume Award. 

Director’s Report and Public Comment 

The director’s report consisted of a presentation from MNPS’ executive director of research, assessment and evaluation, Tina Stenson. Stenson discussed the ways in which her team researches and evaluates decisions and information that inform district strategies. 

The public comment portion of the evening saw many advocates for Purpose Preparatory Academy, a charter school in North Nashville. Though the board approved a charter renewal contract for Purpose Prep during its Nov. 22 meeting, advocates for the school accused some board members of misrepresenting data. Among them was Purpose Prep’s leader Lagra Newman, who claimed that Elrod’s comments from the last meeting — that 26 percent of Purpose Prep’s students are economically disadvantaged — was wrong, and that according to MNPS’ Title I office, 70 percent of Purpose Prep’s students are economically disadvantaged.

MNPS’ open data portal lists that, as of January 2022, 26 percent of Purpose Prep’s students were economically disadvantaged, and the 2021-2022 state report card for the school lists that number of students at 27 percent. The school does qualify for 70 percent Title I funding, which is meant for low-income students. However, district representative Sean Braisted tells the Scene that the state definition for "economically disadvantaged" applies to those who qualify for direct certification, or state and federal benefits. Title I funding is calculated by multiplying that number of students by 1.6, which accounts for others who may not qualify for those benefits but who meet certain income qualifications.

“There are also different methods and systems used to identify a student as qualifying for direct certification, which involves matching students to benefit rosters from the state, and the numbers can change based on the point in time that the data is pulled and reported," says Braisted. "The numbers provided by the Title office came from a different report/data collection method than the enrollment report on the website.” Braisted also took the opportunity to point out that MNPS' “position during the TISA conversation, and it remains the same, is that we do not think the direct certification method of calculating the ED population of a school captures the full picture of students experiencing poverty.”

Commenters representing Nashville Organized for Action and Hope — including District 28 Metro Councilmember Tanaka Vercher — requested more transparency surrounding the district’s equity-related goals. A few Metropolitan Nashville Education Association members also stepped up to advocate for educators. Another commenter spoke out against the third-grade retention law going into effect this school year.

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