Friday, September 28, 2012

"Stand in Silence" instead of "Stand for Children"?

In the wake of state Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman's withdrawal of millions from Metro Schools after the school board's decision to deny the Great Hearts' charter school application, an Enclave reader emailed a query:

 [Why hasn't Stand for Children] made any public comment on decision to pull $3.4M from children in MNPS[?]

You may remember that Stand for Children bills itself locally as the "advocacy" partner of Metro Nashville Public Schools and facilitates the interest group "Friends of Metro Schools," which lobbyied to have Mayor Karl Dean's latest school budget passed.

They even produced a slick video during the budget debates to school the rest of us on the importance of "fully funding" Metro Schools:

"Our public schools will only be as strong as our community cares to make them." Mm-hmm. I would also add, "Our public schools will only be as strong as the State of Tennessee cares to make them". If the state pulls money out of public schools, Tennessee cares less about public schools.

I would also wonder along with the reader why SFC once cared so much about keeping schools "fully" funded when it meant a strategic win in Metro Council for Mayor Dean (and his future aspirations for higher public office), but now they don't seem to care enough to even peep about it.

Stand for Children seems to be sitting this one out.

But in deference to whom?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Bells Bend farms live, May Town development is dead

I have steadfastly followed the prospects of the residents of Bells Bend for several years now. Including news last year that Nashville Yazoo micro-brewery had developed a partnership with local organic farmers to bring hops to local beer production.

Of course, what spurred my interest in Bells Bend long before that was the cause to save the farmland from May Town developers who wanted to flip it into a second downtown without regard for community planning or the wishes of Scottsboro-Bell Bend who would have been displaced by developers's sprawl. The developers put a full court press on North Nashville to try and convince us that the trickle-down jobs that would result would benefit us. Many of us here did not buy the pitch. West Nashvillians who would have been inundated by extra traffic resulting from three new state-built bridges across the Cumberland River also had something to say about the matter. And many, many other Nashvillians were sympathetic because they knew it could have just as easily been them facing bulldozers and unsmart growth. Opponents of May Town grew and galvanized to support the cause.

Now a whole lot of people beyond concerned neighborhood leaders are celebrating the partnership between Yazoo and Bells Bend. Check out Nashville Scene on the bandwagon:

In this autumn's batch of Yazoo Brewing Co.'s pale ale, one flavorful adjective will trump the rest: local. Because the bright-citrus-and-cilantro-scented hints of fresh-cut grass on the head of the limited edition Bells Bend Preservation Ale come courtesy of hops grown in the fertile fields of Davidson County ....

In recent years, the rural area, minutes from downtown, has been the target of development efforts, such as the proposed May Town project. Residents objected to the mixed-use development, fearing it would flood their quiet country roads with traffic and end life as they knew it in the bucolic acres near Scottsboro. They organized, branding their cause with the lyrical logo of whooping cranes, in honor of two endangered birds that took up residence in a Bells Bend field.

The May Town controversy subsided when city officials denied approval for the project, but the whooping crane remains a symbol of the community's commitment to preserving its open spaces and agriculture. This fall, the bird is also the symbol of Yazoo's dry-hopped beer.

The May Town drama did not just subside because of city officials who did not go along. It also ground to a halt because of the hard work and organizing of neighborhoods across Nashville who wrote letters, cajoled council members and commissioners, showed up for every public meeting, and held their own meetings to strategize against the public relations campaign conducted by wealthy developers, pitch men, and lawyers. I tried to document as much of the story as possible here on Enclave because I do not believe it should be forgotten.

I'll continue to watch the annual celebrations of Bells Bend--which now has a sustainable, self-perpetuating relationship with a successful local entrepreneur--content in the knowledge that I joined something larger than myself, a throng of other leaders whose conviction to save rural Bells Bend from urban sprawl made these days possible. I am thankful for that.

UPDATE: Upon further reflection, I remembered how proponents of protecting Bells Bend (agri)culture were labelled "NIMBY" ("Not In My Back Yard") and cast as negative for opposing May Town. It was always clear to me that the neighborhood leaders taking on the developers were positive, progressive actors in the story and that they were "QIMBY" ("Quality In My Back Yard"). Quality is exactly what they got in the organic production of hops for Yazoo to craft a new line of ale.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The project to preserve the historic Fehr School building passes Metro Council's first reading

Longtime readers of this blog know that preserving Fehr school for public, educational purposes has been a goal of mine for years now, one that I have consistently advocated over and over again.

I'm pleased to report that Metro Council approved CM Erica Gilmore's bill that would protect the endangered building from demolition or radical alteration of the building without approval of the Historic Zoning Commission based on recognized preservation standards, with one exception. Here is the meat of the ordinance:

Title 17 of the Code of The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, is hereby amended by changing the Official Zoning follows:

By applying a Historic Landmark Overlay to the Fehr Elementary School property located at 1622 Fifth Avenue North (2.21 acres), and the Warner House property located at 1612 Fourth Avenue North (0.2 acres) being Property Parcel Nos. 060 and105 as designated on Map 082-05 of the Official Property Identification Maps of The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, all of which is described by lines, words and figures on the attached sketch, which is attached to and made a part of this ordinance as though copied herein.

An exception is being granted to allow the Metro Action Commission, which has dug in its heels against this preservation of this Civil Rights era jewel for months, insisting that it be allowed to make any changes to the building that the federal government might require, even though there were no examples ever given to the neighborhood of what those requirements might be. And given what I was told during a phone call last spring from CM Gilmore, the Metro Action Director seems to have flip-flopped after dropping the exemption requirement. Section 2 of the bill contains now includes their exemption:

Be it further enacted, that any restrictions on the alteration of structures created by the designation of the Fehr Elementary School and Warner House as Historic Landmarks shall not prevent the Metropolitan Action Commission from making necessary alterations required by the federal government to the structures located on the properties identified in this legislation or require the Metropolitan Action Commission to seek the approval of the Historic Zoning Commission for such alterations
As long as the term "necessary" is not defined loosely or broadly, then MAC's exception might not present problems. Although, MAC is also exempted from any public process where their plans would be made transparent in the approval process before the HZC. In principle, I do not believe that exempting a Metro department from a rigorous public process is a wise practice. This will force concerned citizens to stay on top of capital budget requests from MAC and to contact our elected officials in Washington about reviewing any federal requirements MAC claims it has to radically alter this living museum.

It's not a perfect bill (few are), but I suppose it is the best we can get given the preferential option Metro Action leaders seem to be reserving for themselves to the point of halting Salemtown's long-held goals of preserving Fehr. I strongly recommend supporting Erica Gilmore as she does what she can with this ordinance to preserve Fehr based on landmark status standards. Given that Metro Action got exactly what it wanted, there should be no more obstacles to quick and painless passage.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Postscript to Metro Parents Advisory Council dust-up over the promotion of parent trigger film

Parents & teachers protest NYC opening of
"Won't Back Down" (credit: Occupy Education)
I did not attend yesterday's screening of "Won't Back Down" but I did hear that Parent Advisory Council Chairperson, Erica Lanier (who sent an invitation addressed to "families of Metro Schools" to the event with an advertisement attached that PAC was a co-sponsor) was one of people on the panel during the discussion time. That explains a lot to me about this. Other PAC leaders responded to my blog post on Ms. Lanier's invitation by insisting that PAC never even discussed the film event, let alone sponsoring it.

In the meantime, this affair has taken a different twist; one that I never would have expected.

A few of days ago I spoke with a senior leader in the school district who told me that Erica Lanier has been claiming I misquoted her in the my blog post on the event. Specifically, she reportedly alleged that the email that I cut-and-pasted directly to the post as her quote was misquoted. I categorically denied the charge and pointed out that the email went to a number of parents and other people from the Jones Paideia PTO gmail account, so I'm not the only one who can verify Ms. Lanier's original wording (assuming that it was not changed by the two parties who forwarded it from Ms. Lanier to my mail box). In fact a few people have approached me and said they received the exact wording that appears on the blog, too.

Nonetheless, there is one thing I don't understand, assuming that reports are correct and the sitting PAC Chair believes that I changed the message of her invitation. She did not mention such charges a week ago when she sent me her first reply to my criticism of the reported endorsement. If I were her and I honestly believed that someone had been messing around with my emails, I would not mince words. The first thing I would write in my reply would be, "These quotes you forwarded to me under my name are not my words. I never wrote this as it is. Either you or someone else has tampered with and altered my words to say something I never wrote. Here is exactly what I wrote .... [etc]."

That is exactly how I would have replied if I were her and believed tampering was afoot. But the chairwoman chose to defend the invitation against my concerns last Tuesday as well as make some supportive points about the California-based group behind the parent trigger.

So, I do not get these belated allegations of tampering with her email, and not just because other people at Jones received it, too. The allegations also make no sense given their timing after, rather than before, this interaction went even more public on here on the blog.

Below is the entire email thread of our exchange. The only changes I have made to it were to format to fit this column neatly and to remove personal and contact information to protect the privacy of others (edits are italicized). I have done absolutely nothing to alter the substance or points in any of the emails, hers or mine. The first email in sequence is Ms. Lanier's last response to me, which is where I would expect to see the charge that I altered her original invitation to appear:

Erica W. Lanier [email address snipped]     Tue, Sep 18, 2012 at 10:39 PM
To: Michael Byrd [email address snipped]
Cc: [email addresses of the PTO, several public officials and a reporter snipped]

The PLT which is the training, development and support team of PAC is not endorsing anything. We are offering an opportunity for equal voice and dialogue. The movie is actually losely [sic] based on Parent Revolution a very real and active parent group based out of California.

As the attached email forwarded by one of our parents states we will have a panel discussion after the movie. This would be a great opportunity for you to share your views. I hope you will register and attend. What PAC does endorse is......"Your voice matters. Make it heard." Our concerns are not being for or against charter schools, but rather advocacy for quality schools and equity of resources to all students.

As of last year MNPS had 144 schools. Neighborhood schools, magnet schools, charter schools and other speciality schools. All have both successes and failures. All educate our children.

And at the end of the day that is the real concern, our children. To be the best possible advocates for our children do we need to isolate ourselves from any discussion or sharing of ideas. Knowledge is power. I welcome powerful advocates for quality education.

Again I hope you can attend and participate in the discussion that will follow the movie.


Michael Byrd  [email address snipped] wrote:

Ms. Lanier:

Some parents do not support the privatization of our public education through charter schools and the shifting of resources away from public schools to education corporations, which are free to select a few Metro students and reject many others. Some of us are concerned about the private wealth and political influence being pumped into the "parent trigger" movement by pro-charter groups and politicians.

Why is our advisory council, which is supposed to represent all voices of public school parents, seeming to take sides in this debate by co-sponsoring a pro-charter film (which is not a factual story, by the way) with a charter lobbyist/advocacy group? Shouldn't the Parents Advisory Council be striving to bring more balance to this event by suggesting alternative viewpoints or contrasting films more critical of what appears to be a headlong rush to charters?

If the Parents Advisory Council is interested in balance and fairness, I would recommend that they consider this film from the Grassroots Education Movement for screening, too: By all means, advance the debate on education, but please make sure that the debate remains diverse and inclusive of all voices.

Mike Byrd
[offline contact information snipped]
(4th year Jones Paideia parent)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: M K [email address snipped]
Date: Thu, Sep 13, 2012 at 8:08 PM
Subject: FW: "Won't Back Down" Exclusive Screening
To: [email addresses snipped]

Date: Mon, 10 Sep 2012 22:46:00 +0000
From: [email address snipped]
To: [email address snipped]
Subject: Fwd: "Won't Back Down" Exclusive Screening

Good evening families of Metro Schools. The Parents Advisory Council has been asked to partner with the Tennessee Charter Schools Association and Students First for the following movie premiere at Opry Mills Movie Theatre on Monday, September 24, 2012 at 6 pm. We will begin promptly at 6 pm with remarks by the Honorable Mayor Karl Dean, followed by the movie and a panel discussion to follow.

I look forward to seeing you there. Please register in advance to reserve your seats.

Erica W. Lanier
Parents Advisory Council Chair 2010-2013
Parents Advisory Council’s Leadership Taskforce (PLT)
“Your voice matters. Make it heard.”

These events seem to have taken a nasty turn that I did not anticipate in trying to express my dissatisfaction with messages conveyed by one of my PAC representatives about support for Nashville's parent trigger celebration. I find it troubling that my honor is being questioned, but more importantly I find it distressing that a MNPS spokesperson is reporting what I interpret to be defamatory actions on the part of the PAC Chair toward a concerned parent. It is particularly vexing given that I spend so much time when I blog hunting down quotes and linking the contexts for them copiously.

I sense now--despite the tagline in her signature--that my voice does not matter and it will not be heard.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Belle Meade council member appears to have itchy trigger finger

(Full disclosure: I have been openly one of the strongest supporters of Emily Evans many times on this blog, which makes this post a difficult one for me to write.)

During an online discussion tonight on the possibility of a parent trigger Metro Council member Emily Evans tweeted:

Note that she did not include teachers in the trigger equation of being "driven bw district and parents". That exclusion seems par for the ambivalent course that trigger fans seem to tee off on. Triggers channel parent anger not in democratic or progressive ways, but in ways that promote privatization of public education and increase public subsidies for private enterprise. The trigger is a deliberate wedge between organized parents and organized teachers, both of whom can usually be brought together to act for the greater good of public school kids. It is divide and conquer, and the conquerors are partisan politicians angling for influence and wealthy corporations drooling at tax revenues. So, Ms. Evans' omission of teachers is not inconsequential in my opinion.

And then there is that unabashedly curious and deliciously contradictory claim she makes that "this acrimony" (by which I assume she means the controversy engendered at every stop around the country by the parent trigger tour) is not of Nashville itself. The parent trigger is an unrealized project that started in California by charter school leadership shortly after former Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger passed education reform legislation. The group founded by a charter school leadership to promote it, Parent Revolution, is not even located east of the Rockies, let alone east of Little Rock.

The parent trigger "movement" itself is astroturf alien to Nashville, and yet, the kumbaya that Emily Evans predicts can happen with a trigger inspired from the outside is somehow indigenous and home-grown? Maybe she is doubling down that certain voices in Karl Dean's Nashville will be ignored or yelled down and that the debate will not turn against her bid to bring charter schools to wealthy Belle Meade. Otherwise, her minimizing of local opposition to the parent trigger (which is as honestly found as her chosen hard sell) seems to me at my most charitable moment utterly passive-aggressive.

I'm originally from Texas, so I guess I am ultimately an out-of-towner. I have lived in Nashville half of my life (since 1989), but maybe I still don't qualify as local. However, I do have two daughters both of whom were born in Nashville. My daughters attended or are attending Metro public schools. So, perhaps being the parent of these two MNPS daughters should qualify me to take issue with Ms. Evans' latest pet project without the insinuation that my dissent, that our dissent is not authentically Nashville.

I have skin in this game and I am a Nashvillian. No degree of gainsaying by charter promoters will change the fact that I am here and I will speak out prompted by nobody from the outside.

CM Evans has gone from being one the bolder mavericks on Metro Council to one of the most risk-averse members in my book. She struck me as an uncritical advocate of charter schools back when the Great Hearts project started taking flight. I've not been this disappointed in her since she voted for Eric Crafton's English Only. It seems her tenure on council, which for a couple of years roared like a lion on funding the new convention center, is ending about as gritty as a lamb.

Pushing through a parent trigger in Nashville is not going to give parents more power simply by flipping a bona fide school (in Evans' district the average school would not be facing challenges of serving working class or impoverished families) to a privately-run charter school. This needs to be heard going away: the parents may end up left out of the equation after the trigger is squeezed. And there are devils they do not know lying in wait. If this is to be a fair debate on parent trigger it cannot be stacked in favor of the promoters to the exclusion of the critics or of the risks involved. Emily Evans at least owes the public debate more than trying to sway it from her position of influence with prejudiced outsider/insider spin.

UPDATE:  In a tweet earlier tonight from the Nashville screening of the parent trigger promotional flick, "Won't Back Down," Nashville City Paper reporter Joey Garrison tweeted:

This film paints teachers' unions as out-of-touch with the wrong priorities, and characterizes school districts as bureaucratic wrecks.

His observation is consistent with what I wrote earlier about the ill will trigger proponents tend to bear toward unions.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Cancelled conventions at Music City Center cost Nashville

Nashville is already shelling out $678,000 in taxpayer dollars to cover the losses of two conventions originally booked for the new, historically expensive Music City Center. Crane Watchdog culls the details:

Two associations, the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA) and the Technology & Maintenance Council of the American Trucking Association (ATA) were scheduled to hold conferences at the center more than a month before the building was scheduled to open ....

Now the associations have made the decision to relocate upon news that construction will not be fully completed before their events. Of the two shows, one will remain in the area while the other has relocated to Florida. Aside from the tourism loss ... that the government is paying "more than $678,000 in taxpayer dollars to make restitution" to the two associations.

The payout approval is also documented in the July 12, 2012 Convention Center Authority meeting minutes. The minutes confirm the payment amount demonstrating that the Authority will pay the ATA $110,000 and also reduce the rent for future convention in the years 2015-2017 from $35,000 per year to $0.00 per year. In addition, the minutes show the Authority must pay $568,153 to the HPBA. All of these fees cover a cancellation fee, assist the groups with other expenses necessary for relocation, and cover additional expenses that would not have been necessary if the events had remained at the Music City Center.

However, convention center spokesperson Holly McCall essentially puts the blame on the Metro Council for the unplanned expenses:

The Music City Center isn't scheduled to open before May 2013, so why did the center agree to book them a month before?

"These shows were booked back in June of 2009," said McCall. "That's when metro council originally looked at voting on the convention center. They ended up not voting on the convention center until January 2010, which set us back 7 months."

So, it's Metro Council's fault that convention center planners and schedulers took council approval for granted even though popular opinion was not strongly in favor of building it? According to the Metro Charter, council approval is part of the procedure for approving capital projects. It is not something that unexpectedly pops out of left field.

Rather than blaming the Metro Council, perhaps Ms. McCall should have pointed to the failures of the agency she represents for not planning some cushion for the probability that delays might occur in the council approval process.  The convention center authority should own the missteps in the timeline that caused them to fail to account for the messiness of public process. My guess is that the convention center leaders in 2009 were willing to risk the loss of individual conventions and public money for the immediate PR projection of inevitability that the claim "Conventions are already being booked!" was giving them.

The Metro Council can be ineffectual enough, but for convention center leaders to make them scapegoats for their own wasteful messes is cowardly and shameful.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Crime Alert Update: arrest made in the murder and dumping of homeless woman in Salemtown

From the Nashville City Paper:

Police have charged 56-year-old Napoleon Harvey with criminal homicide in the death of Stephanie Alexander.

According to police, Harvey admitted during a jail interview with detectives to killing Alexander after an argument in his car. He has been in jail on a parole violation warrant since Sept. 6, the same day Alexander's body was found in a vacant lot in Salemtown.

Announcement: upcoming community meeting on Werthan development

David Kleinfelter, who once served as Metro Planning's land development manager, forwarded me the following announcement today regarding an open meeting with developers and architects to discuss plans for the Werthan Packaging Property. He says that his group has mailed this notice to 520 property owners in the area of the property on the east side of Rosa Parks Boulevard:

Community Meeting
Wednesday, October 3, 2012
6:00 PM
Morgan Park Community Center
411 Hume Street
Nashville, TN  37208

SWH Residential Partners has a contract to purchase the remaining industrial part of the Werthan Packaging, Inc. property at 1515 Fifth Avenue North.  You are invited to a community meeting to see our proposed concept for redeveloping the property with a mixture of residential and commercial uses.

Our architects, Smith Gee Studio, will show a proposed site plan and elevations and will be available to answer questions and hear your comments and concerns.  Council Lady Erica Gilmore will also be at the meeting. 

We are not asking for any rezoning of the property.

If you have questions about this meeting, please email or call 615-866-2320.

I've already jotted down some initial thoughts on this development. I look forward to hearing more details at the community meeting.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Trigger-happy Parents Advisory Council (UPDATED)

"Engagement Marketing" ad Parents Advisory Council
sent to our PTO [see "UPDATE" below]
Monday night the chair of Metro Schools' Parents Advisory Council, which tends to be the only parents group the school district listens to (at least that was the message I got early on from PTO meetings at my daughter's school), sent out the following email promoting the pro-charter, "parent trigger" film, "Won't Back Down":

Good evening families of Metro Schools.  The Parents Advisory Council has been asked to partner with the Tennessee Charter Schools Association and Students First for the following movie premiere at Opry Mills Movie Theatre on Monday, September 24, 2012 at 6 pm.  We will begin promptly at 6 pm with remarks by the Honorable Mayor Karl Dean, followed by the movie and a panel discussion to follow.

I look forward to seeing you there. Please register in advance to reserve your seats.

Erica W. Lanier
Parents Advisory Council Chair 2010-2013
Parents Advisory Council’s Leadership Taskforce (PLT)
“Your voice matters. Make it heard.”

Ms. Lanier was also one of three losing candidates for the District 5 school board seat election just passed.

What primarily raised my hackles about this email, which was received by our PTO membership, was the partnering of the parents' advocacy and advisement group with Students First led by controversial and conservative Education Reformer Michelle Rhee and with the primary lobbying group for charter schools to red-state Tennessee, TCSA. There were no other groups that PAC partnered with, no other films representing alternative points of view. This event is being staged and marketed by charter school advocates and our advisory council seems to be jettisoning its independence and evenhandedness to enable what amounts to some of us as propaganda*, especially when branded as truth.

So, yesterday I penned a letter to Ms. Lanier and copied it to my PTO leader, my daughter's principal, my school board member, my council member, and a local reporter covering the charter debate. PAC may be going into this event merrily, if not naively, but I at least want to offer a dissenting view in case they assume everyone is on board with them:

Ms. Lanier:

Some parents do not support the privatization of our public education through charter schools and the shifting of resources away from public schools to education corporations, which are free to select a few Metro students and reject many others. Some of us are concerned about the private wealth and political influence being pumped into the "parent trigger" movement by pro-charter groups and politicians.

Why is our advisory council, which is supposed to represent all voices of public school parents, seeming to take sides in this debate by co-sponsoring a pro-charter film (which is not a factual story, by the way) with a charter lobbyist/advocacy group? Shouldn't the Parents Advisory Council be striving to bring more balance to this event by suggesting alternative viewpoints or contrasting films more critical of what appears to be a headlong rush to charters?

If the Parents Advisory Council is interested in balance and fairness, I would recommend that they consider this film from the Grassroots Education Movement for screening, too: By all means, advance the debate on education, but please make sure that the debate remains diverse and inclusive of all voices.

The PAC Chair replied last night with a tersely written email. What she did not say in it is just as important as what she did say. She replied with no examples of how our advisory committee had attempted to provide perspectives on transforming education at odds with the business models of the charter industry. In my opinion, the strongest response to my criticism is to list the ways that PAC remains a balanced group that shines a spotlight on all perspectives in a debate. She also failed to acknowledge the legitimacy of parents like me who have another view of charter schools. PAC's willingness to partner with the other sides of this debate would earn my appreciation.

Ms. Lanier did insist that PAC was not siding with anyone in the debate, even though her group forwarded the sales campaign materials to the PTO (even the ad website has the word "campaign" in the URL). She also argued that the movie is "loosely based" on "Parent Revolution" which she called a "real and active parent group". What she did not acknowledge in her letter to me is that Parent Revolution was started by a charter school operator, operates with a million dollar budget, and takes donations from pro-charter venture philanthropists with the Bill Gates Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation. It is not a bunch of PTO moms who got together and organized out of their own frustrations.

She also did not give many any details on how PR work (seems a strikingly appropriate abbreviation) in California led to successful triggers that inspired the movie. Fact is, there have been no successful triggers that could have inspired "Won't Back Down". The movie is a fiction. In fact, it was intended to be a fiction, according to one of its writers.

The idea of a trigger sounds good to frustrated and angry parents, who desperately seek solutions but who often are not aware of the ulterior political agendas they end up supporting by embracing the trigger. The reality tends to prove to be emptier and more regressive than anticipated.

Finally, Ms. Lanier maintained that dissenting views like mine would be accommodated during the panel discussion time. It is not clear to me that dissenting views would even be sitting on the panel. So, why should I hope to have my views acknowledged during that discussion? I could not even have them acknowledged after contacting my PAC leader.


     *One of the pioneers of "parent trigger" lobbying is the American Legislative Exchange Council, which holds closed-door pow-wows with conservative legislators to craft extreme bills with the least resistance.

UPDATE: The Vice Chair of the Parents Advisory Council comments below that the invitation to the "Won't Back Down" event was never planned or authorized by PAC or the Leadership Taskforce. I attended tonight's PAC meeting. While the subject did not come up in the district meeting, an MNPS administrator told me that they would not authorize such an invitation either.

Looks like a rogue invitation to the parent trigger event, which gives the event even less credibility in my book.

UPDATE: I took a screenshot of the advertisement for the Nashville showing of Won't Back Down, which was somewhat different than the ad for both Memphis and Nashville showings (inset screenshot above). The Nashville ad was attached to the email originally sent from Ms. Lanier and forwarded to our PTO group. There is no mistaking that the ad states that the Parents Advisory Council's Leadership Taskforce "is partnering" with the Tennessee Charter Schools Association and with Students First "to host an exclusive preview" of Won't Back Down:

PAC leaders have separated themselves from claims of the partnership. I'm updating this because it seems pretty clear to me that Ms. Lanier's email included some professional advertising work by people who intended to suggest to us that the Parents Advisory Council endorsed their campaign without the permission of PAC. I'm wondering whether anyone at PAC will investigate how this happened.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Populist when convenient

What's rich about the Nashville Scene blog playing the populist card today against West End residents who don't want to see East Nashvillians riding rapid transit in their part of town: the journos' populism has been stone cold silent in response to their parent company's moving the summer event "Movies in the Park" from Centennial Park to pastoral Belle Meade after some urban anomie (apologies to Emile Durkheim) bit them last year.

Do they really expect to have any street cred in criticizing Nashville's westward patricians given what looks like their company's own garden-variety white flight from urban grit?

(Full disclosure: I have lived in the West End area and in the Five Points area of East Nashville in the past. While I have no firm allegiances, given my current status as a North Nashvillian, I agree that the more pretentious part of Nashville lies to the west).

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Politically connected news media board president compares school board decision to segregationist governor

The president of the board of directors of the parent company of the Nashville Scene and the Nashville City Paper, Townes Duncan, is a charter school advocate. He is such an avid advocate that he started a PAC to elect pro-charter candidates to the school board with a family member of Mayor Karl Dean, who also happens to be a fan of charter schools. Mr. Duncan sent out an e-mail blast last June when the school board deferred consideration of the application of Great Hearts Academy, suggesting that the board was ruled by "Forces of Darkness" who place "adult needs" over student achievement.

Last night the school board, in defiance of a state order to accept the Great Hearts application, took the surprising step of denial of the Arizona-based charter school's application. Predictably, Mayor Dean indicated that the denial was illegal.

For his part, Mr. Duncan fired off a tweet that compared the Metro Nashville school board decision with the 1957 segregationist actions of Arkansas governor Orval Faubus, blocking the Little Rock Nine in order to appease racist anger at federal desegregation orders:

I guess if you are tight with this Mayor you can get away with comparing declining the application of a private corporation to come in and privatize public schools (based on the faulty, unexamined, undemonstrated logic that charter schools will stop affluent parents from pulling their kids out of Metro schools) with denying African American children their constitutional right to public education.

Charter schools are essentially "public" private schools that take applications. Hence, they can deny students access themselves free from bureaucratic obligation. But somehow, Mr. Duncan twists that reality to a level equal to the noble cause of granting free access to public education to all people irrespective of character, creed or color. Obviously, up has become down and inside has become out in the newspeak of privatized education.

Not from last night's school board meeting:
Faubus plays to all-white crowd & confederate flag
For my part, I believe Great Hearts will eventually win approval because MNPS Director Jesse Register has already started Metro Public Schools down the slippery slope of privatization. So, I don't understand the dust-up by fans and evangelists of charter schools. They are overplaying their hand with the whining. At last night's meeting, the establishment of Metro charter schools was cited several times as precedent for accepting other comers like Great Hearts. So, it's just a matter of time before Great Hearts wins this, in my opinion. But just like there is no basis for the argument that charter schools will retain wealthy parents, so there is no evidence that charters perform any better than bona fide (a.k.a. "neighborhood") public schools.

And there is no need for charter supporters to make ridiculous comparisons to civil rights history. For Mr. Duncan to take the low road of specious comparisons while Mayor Dean kicks at the decision from on high may leverage a different board decision in the future, but neither will change the realities of education or those of history.

UPDATE: And 24 hours later, the Nashville Scene editor updates to get out front on the story of his company's board president's regrettable tweets. Jump to the slow-pokey post. Not exactly breaking news.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

CRIME ALERT: body found near 5th and Buchanan

From NewsChannel5:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A man mowing a lawn discovered the body of a woman in North Nashville.

The discovery came around 11 a.m. Wednesday at 5th Avenue North and Buchanan Street.

Police responded to the scene to investigate. Officials did not disclose if the woman's death could be ruled as suspicious.

Crime scene investigators were working to determine how the woman died and how long she had been dead.

It was unclear if police knew the woman's identity.

UPDATE: further media reports indicate that the woman had been murdered by means of blunt force trauma elsewhere, and then the body was dumped here.

UPDATE: Victim identified. Again, NewsChannel5 with the details:

Metro Police have identified the body of a woman that was discovered in North Nashville Wednesday.

Police said the woman was identified as 39-year-old homeless woman Stephanie K. Alexander. She appeared to have been killed by blunt force trauma.

The discovery of Alexander's body came around 11 a.m. Wednesday at 5th Avenue North and Buchanan Street. Terrence Parrish was cutting the grass and he smelled something, but said he thought it was perhaps a dead rodent or a dead snake.

When he finished mowing, Terrence found Alexander in an alley filled with weeds.

Police continue to investigate. No arrests have been made.

UPDATE: Jump to news of arrest.