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: http://vimeo.com/41994760. 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.

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