Sharing his letter of resignation with the public via Twitter, Metro Nashville Public School Board member Will Pinkston called out the body on which he serves “impossibly inept,” just as another school board member has announced plans to make a motion to terminate School Director Dr. Shawn Joseph.
Elected to Metro Nashville Board of Public Education in 2012 representing the 7th District of South and Southeast Nashville, Pinkston graduated from Metro Nashville Public Schools and, as a senior advisor, “helped Gov. Phil Bredesen shape the education agenda that made Tennessee the fastest-improving state in the history of the Nation’s Report Card,” according to his campaign website.
Pinkston’s letter addressed to Dr. Sharon Gentry, Chair of the Metropolitan Nashville Board of Public Education dated March 25, whom Pinkston praised, was not voted into the position as Chair without dissension, The Tennessee Star reported.
Pinkston told Gentry in his letter that while his resignation from the Board is effective April 12, his resignation as Chair of the Budget & Finance Committee chair is effective immediately.
Pinkston’s Twitter release of his letter of resignation included the comment, “Talk amongst yourselves. I decided this about a month ago, but Friday’s insane board retreat expedited my decision.”
Talk amongst yourselves. I decided this about a month ago, but Friday’s insane board retreat expedited my decision. pic.twitter.com/QyS0HA999E
— Will Pinkston (@WillPinkston) March 25, 2019
Pinkston’s “talk amongst yourselves” comment seems contradictory to his typical social media behavior, as he is frequently engaged in Twitter debates, as reported, even repeatedly calling people out as “nitwits.”
Just this weekend, among other tweets, Pinkston tweeted that the Nashville School Board was deadlocked with a 4-4 vote on whether to give teachers a 6 percent or 10 percent pay increase, making him a tie breaking vote. He later tweeted, “The irony of the situation is: Regardless of what the board does, there’s no money on the revenue side to fund pay raises.”
In his letter, Pinkston cites a wide range of issues with the board, which makes it “clearly chronically ill in ways that will not be easily cured.” One of those issues is related to employee compensation and a budget that he says is “shaping up to be pure fiction and ignores the city’s current revenue restraints.”
Perhaps Pinkston’s strongest disparagements of the board were related to criticism of current Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) Director, Dr. Shawn Joseph, which Pinkston called “racially motivated attacks.” Pinkston also admonished, “The dishonest and unfair treatment of the first African-American superintendent in the history of Nashville should give the entire community pause.”
However, not everyone is still defending the performance of MNPS School Director Shawn Joseph, including former school board chair, Anna Shepherd, News Channel 5 reported.
According to the report, Shepherd had been an outspoken defender of Joseph from the time he was hired in 2016, even through the director’s handling of a district sexual harassment scandal and the spending of MNPS funds.
Shepherd’s view of Joseph changed when a Nashville law firm report of the MNPS human resources practices was released and warned that MNPS “faces a morale crises that threatens its ability to attract and keep good employees,” according to News Channel 5.
Shepherd requested of board chair, Dr. Gentry, via email that a vote be brought to the floor at the April 9 board meeting to terminate Dr. Joseph’s contract.
For his part, Joseph says he has no plans to resign, but he will not seek contract renewal upon its expiration in June 2020, the News Channel 5 report said, and expressed hope that the parting of ways could be done in a mutually agreeable way and provide for a proper and effective transition of leadership.
The vote scheduled for April 9 will take place before Pinkston’s resignation takes effect on April 12.
With three other school board members in addition to Shepherd – Fran Bush, Amy Frogge and Jill Speering – already having stated that its time for Joseph to go, per News Channel 5, another tie vote may come down to Pinkston as perhaps his parting shot from the board.
It will likely not be the last of Pinkston, though, as he said in his resignation letter he will be holding charter zealots accountable, have considerably more bandwidth and energy to fight the school privatization movement.
Laura Baigert is a senior reporter at The Tennessee Star.