Tuesday, August 09, 2011

"Urban core" Facebook group considers charter option in place of partnering with North Nashville public schools

Some would rather switch than fight:

It is worth noting that the North End feeder school, Buena Vista, is 97% reduced price lunch and 97% African American. A charter school may provide sanctuary for kids from gentrifying families here, but it will not change the dysfunctional class and race dynamics of the system. Our neighborhood quality of life will not rise without the quality of the schools rising and a charter will not help them rise.

Buena Vista demographics. Source: ProPublica

So, would a charter school essentially become an exclusive island apart from both Buena Vista and the area magnet schools?


  1. Where do you think the racial breakdown needs to be before white parents will send their kids to public school?

    (NB: I understand the decision to send children to a particular school is not solely or even necessarily primarily based on race. For purposes of this question, that is the only factor I am taking into account).

    Do charter schools have exclusionary admissions policies? What makes you think it could become an "island" ?

    Do you know the number of potential K and 1st graders that are zoned for Buena Vista that attend school elsewhere?

  2. Charter schools are a result of a broken system. I sit on a variety of metro school initiatives, including the CEO Champions for education, so I am well aware of our educational challenges.

    However, you do a disservice to the families on the FB page (myself included) because it only distracts when you once again make it about race or gentrifying lines. Having a child means you want them to have a good education - and our zoned schools are not ranking very well right now.

    So we're left with the choice of 'sacrificing' our children for the greater good or to seek other options that can help us in present day. Thus, Charter schools & Magnets are the only options we have unless we decide to abandon the public school system altogether (which has been the norm for the past 20 years in metro).

    I suggest you show a little more sensitivity to the families that only want the best for the children. In fact, I invite you to come to a neighborhood meeting & join us in finding a solution :)

  3. I wonder why it is assumed that we, who actually have our children in the North end public school system, are 'sacrificing' our children. Were Mayor Purcell & Vice Mayor Gentry 'sacrificing' their children as well?

    We HAVE BEEN STRATEGIZING workable solutions for 7 years in fact, including investing into the existing North End schools prior to having a 'school aged' child, with little to no attention on the matter until now that there are more parents with children fast approaching school age, for whom Eakin is no longer an option. And, don't get me wrong. I'm glad to see it. The strength is in the numbers.

    Are these neighborhood meetings public knowledge? B/C I live here, w/a school age child & haven't a clue as to when or where. I would very much like to discuss solutions so that every child is afforded the best possible education.

    I realize that charter schools are a result of a broken system but, just b/c a system is broken, that doesn't mean it's not worth fixing. I know a lot of this is driven out of fear. And, believe me, when it comes to our children, I understand the fear & worry regarding the choices we make for them. My fear is that the creation of a charter school in this area is only going to distract interests, energy, time & money away from these schools that currently so desperately need it. There are going to be a lot of children & families who will be left in the wake.

    What's amazing to me is how some of the proponents of the charter school claim to know so much about these schools of which they have no part. It seems that opinion is based on ratings that come from.....where? What is the criteria? Where is the data?

    It was an urban mindset that brought most of us into these transitional neighborhoods & we have all worked so hard to make them better. These neighborhood schools deserve that same mindset & energy from us to make them better as well. It's an investment. Whether you have children or not.

  4. Do either the blogger or DKNV have children that attend or attended Buena Vista?

  5. I typically try not to respond to people who don't exhibit the courage to put their names by their comments, but here goes. We have had a community relationship with Jones Paideia (2 blocks from Buena Vista) since 2005 (our 2nd grader is now at Jones). We moved to Salemtown thinking we wanted a neighborhood school. The zoned school at the time was Brookmeade in the Belle Meade area. Busing our kid out was not for us, and we had already had connections with the Jones PTO, which is why we applied for Jones when we could.

    Our decision was no where close to those of Hope Gardens or Germantown parents who moved in to access the back door to a high-demand school like Eakin. And it was clear from the parents' comments in the Tennessean story that none of the magnets in North Nashville was satisfactory for the disgruntled parents previously zoned for Eakin. Not even Jones, whose demographics are closer (50% reduced lunch; 93% African American) to Buena Vista's than Eakin's (25% reduced lunch; 37% African American) was mentioned as a viable option for those wanting Eakin. And Jones did not make its TCAP reading scores last year (math was fine), which may explain quizzical looks we get from some white parents when they find out where our kid goes to school (she finished 1st grade on the honor roll, by the way).

    As parents with a kid old enough to be inside the system right now we do not feel it is time to panic, bail and join the jittery to start a new school, which itself would depend on a lottery and sap resources from the schools here that are already having their mettle tested. (Frankly if any community deserves a neighborhood zoned school it is Salemtown, which is one of the more racially and economically diverse). But let's be clear: the lion's share of people for whom sending kids to Buena Vista is not a choice do not belong to the urban schools Facebook group, (and I wonder how much of an effort has been made to bring those people on board). The parents who do have a choice are either sending or threatening to send their kids to schools out of North Nashville.

  6. Nicholas: my intention was not to make the debate solely about race or economics. But they are factors and they do deserve mentioning. They are factors in determining why Julia Green school in West Nashville got iPads for its students last year and none of the North Nashville schools got iPads for theirs. My kid's first grade teacher was down to one functioning computer for her entire class. I doubt that happens in any Eakin classes. To deny a discussion of economics and ethnicity is to encourage people to stick their heads in the sand about the realities that many face every day.

    I've attended several meetings in Hope Gardens and Germantown on various issues (for instance, I was at Erica Gilmore's meeting on schools at Goodwill). I've supported Hope Gardens on the Greyhound bus terminal relocation. But Rosa Parks Blvd runs both ways. Part of the problem is that I never see any of your members at PTO meetings or at teacher appreciation volunteer days. Why is that? It's easy to preach "civic engagement" from the security of a Facebook comment board, but actually engaging is another story. In the wake of the Tennessean article, Salemtown Neighbors has started working with a representative from Buena Vista to create a school-neighborhood partnership. What is your group doing beside exploring outside options?

  7. To add in response to anonymous: do you have a child in school? If so, in a North End school? If not, then I am a heck of a lot closer to being able to speak accurately about what it's like to be in the North End school system than you are, even if it's not in Buena Vista.

    Still, no one addresses the fact that we (collectively) don't put into our neighborhood schools what we put into the neighborhoods themselves.

    Again, I'm all for a group of parents interested in making our schools better for everyone. I'm just unclear about whether or not that's what is happening here since it seems like we are abandoning those schools which currently exist to start a new one. It's an immediate solution for those involved...I'm just not convinced it's the right one. Especially when we are talking about 'civic engagement'.

  8. Tene Hamilton FranklinThu Aug 11, 01:35:00 PM CDT

    Let’s put it out there. This is about race.

    It is a fact that MNPS schools that are predominately Black have significantly fewer educational resources. As a result, people don’t want to send their children to predominately Black schools. This feeling is not unique to White parents. Black parents feel the same way. We know that Black schools traditionally get the short end of the stick. This is the result of institutional racism.

    Parents of the 97% of students that are on free and reduced lunch do not have the same options that I or many of you do. I can buy my child their own computer. I have a mini-library at home. I can send my child to a private school. Most of the students that attend Buena Vista don’t enjoy those privileges.

    We would not be having this conversation if Buena Vista was 97% White. Even if Buena Vista, Jones Paideia, and Hull Jackson Montessori were 30% White, these schools would enjoy a greater number of educational resources than they do now.

  9. Leaning on "institutional racism" as the responsible party devalues your rant. It is the new Godwin's law. It is easily dismissed because it is difficult to address as an issue (whether it is or isn't a real issue).

    What are your specific complaints about resources?

    Are Metro dollars allocated unevenly? Anecdotal evidence doesn't work here - we all have stories a/c that doesn't work, not enough computers, etc.

    I am aware that some PTO raise lots of money and buy things for their schools. That is not, however, racism.

  10. Tene Hamilton FranklinThu Aug 11, 05:25:00 PM CDT

    My “rant” is my reality. I am forced to deal with race on a daily basis.

    S-townMike has already provided examples of the disparities of the schools in our cluster. Other examples include less qualified teachers in underperforming schools, disparities in discipline between Blacks and Whites, the difference in AP course offerings between majority schools and minority schools. A couple of years ago, it was reported that our neighborhood elementary school went without paper towels in the restrooms—during the height of Flu season. I bet this wouldn’t happen at Julia Green.

    I am not leaning on institutional racism. The school board used race as a basis to re-zone our cluster. From my experience, the term “Institutional Racism” is easier for most to digest as opposed to the “individual racist behaviors and comments” that perpetuate the disparities in our communities and schools. Race is always a challenging topic, but it is in our face and we have to acknowledge and deal with it.

  11. Schools with demographics such as Buena Vista, don't have the same type of parental participation as schools such as Eakin, Julia Green, It's easy to sit back & speculate why this is. But, logistically, how can a single mom working two jobs in order to make ends meet, find the extra hours in the day to participate in PTO? Let alone a mother trying to get by & provide for her children while living temporarily in a shelter. I realize these aren't the only reasons for lack of participation but, comparing upper middle class/upper class families to lower middle/lower class families is ludicrous. Things are not going to get better for everyone until true diversity happens. And, that takes parents who are able to invest in the schools to do so. And, it doesn't have to be at the expense of your child. I don't suggest putting your child in harm's way, either physically, emotionally, or developmentally. And these schools don't fall under that category. They may not have what other schools do, but there's no reason why we, as a concerned, proactive group of parents, can't work together to fix that.

  12. Race is a challenging topic, and we should acknowledge it. I agree.

    I re-read the posts. Here are the examples of disparities:

    iPads at Julia Green - please confirm these were paid with Metro dollars and not PTO dollars. I'm unsure how this is an example of racism if Percy Priest, Eakin and Sylvan Park don't have ipads.

    - one functioning computer in a single room

    - less qualified teachers

    - discipline disparities

    - a lack of paper towels a couple years ago.

    - differences in AP courses

    Now, to engage

    - the paper towels and computer issues are anecdotal, not evidence of institutionalized thought in MNPS. I can give similar anecdotes about other schools in different parts of town.

    The less-qualified teacher issue: I am unsure how teachers are put into schools. Do they apply for jobs in a particular school? If so, then that is not an institutional issue but an individual issue - the qualified teachers want to teach in certain schools. To the extent that someone on Bransford is scanning resumes and performance reviews (do they give those to teachers?) and sending the worst teachers to certain schools, I'd say you have a point.

    My understanding is that the principal has a strong influence in who teaches at his school. I'd suggest a focus on principals for anyone looking to advance the fortunes of a school.

    Discipline disparities - I don't like discipline disparities, and if it happens, it shouldn't. I am, however, all for well-defined, strict, and consistently enforced discipline. A major concern with sending kids to public school is safety, along with potential disruptions in the classroom that make learning near-impossible.

    - AP courses - Why are AP courses offered different in different schools? I'm not as familiar with high schools as elementary and middle. Given the appalling graduation rates at some high schools, I'd suggest that there's a cost/benefit analysis of offering courses that many students wouldn't qualify for. Nevertheless - I think we agree here - everyone needs to be educated - from the kids at the bottom of the class to those who are "gifted." If an academic need is going unfulfilled, that should be addressed.

    I reject the notion of institutionalized racism as a reason certain schools underperform.