While both Kindall and Gentry did the right thing two years ago and voted against Jesse Register's plan to privatize Metro Schools service workers, the union representing those workers unambiguously endorses Mr. Kindall:
“He’s often the only one in the school board meetings who asks the tough questions and tries to hold Dr. Register accountable,” said Cordelia Howard, a school secretary, in the SEIU’s announcement.
Lately, Sharon Gentry has said and done nothing to change my sense of ambivalence about her, and she seems less willing to speak truth to power. In fact, she talks about public schools as if she is now one of those ideologues who believes the school district should be managed like a business, right down to reciting jargon about "portfolios":
What are your priorities for the Metro School system as a whole?It is straight out of the Chamber's school reform playbook. Keep in mind that Ms. Gentry is also married to Howard Gentry, who has had close professional ties to the Nashville Chamber of Commerce. She received large campaign donations from Chamber big shots in the past. This all seems to beholden her to an organization which is setting up shop and hawking its products in Metro Nashville Public Schools.
Fostering more proactive methods for including charter schools into the choice portfolio for MNPS that focuses on identify charter school programs that help address the needs within the district.
The goal of maximizing private profits is not always commensurable with democratic values of public education. Financial and personal ties to the Chamber of Commerce suggest to me that a candidate will be more prone to cow to the special business interests who treat children as more a future compliant labor force than a potential democratic citizenry. In that vein, John Dewey knew what he was talking about 100 years ago in Democracy and Education:
Democracy cannot flourish where the chief influences in selecting subject matter of instruction are utilitarian ends narrowly conceived for the masses, and, for the higher education of the few, the traditions of a specialized cultivated class. The notion that the "essentials" of elementary education are ... mechanically treated, is based upon ignorance of the essentials needed for realization of democratic ideals. Unconsciously it assumes that these ideals are unrealizable; it assumes that in the future, as in the past, getting a livelihood, "making a living," must dignify for most men and women doing things which are not significant, freely chosen, and ennobling to those who do them; doing things which serve ends unrecognized by those engaged in them, carried on under the direction of others for the sake of pecuniary reward.It is pecuniary reward (plainly put, "the big money score") that the Chamber of Commerce is committed to and the means by which it sells others on supporting its narrow goals.
I believe a school board candidate should strive toward a larger vision of public education than selling it to private charter school companies or reducing it to "Academies" for vocational training. Sharon Gentry strikes me as just a bit too zealous about charter schools and a lot too embedded with the Chamber's business class to exert herself toward the larger vision. I'm not saying that I believe fervently that Mr. Kindall will not resort to old-school political patronage or to supporting charter schools, but I do believe that the Chamber's influence begs to be checked and balanced, that Jesse Register ought to continue to be held accountable and that Mr. Kindall is more likely to do both than is Ms. Gentry.