WSMV polled the four major Nashville mayoral candidates on whether the Metro Nashville Public Schools superintendent should report to the mayor instead of the school board, and only one said “Yes.” That candidate was Dr. Carol Swain.
WSMV’s story is here.
The Metro Nashville mayoral candidates who were polled were Swain, incumbent Mayor David Briley, State Rep. John Ray Clemmons (D-TN-55) and at-large Metro Council member John Cooper.
Swain told WSMV, “I believe the director of schools should report to the mayor because there has to be some accountability. We’ve had problems in the past. The school board has a budget of almost a billion dollars and we know that we have some of the worst performing schools in the state.”
Briley, Clemmons and Cooper said “No.”
One education expert told The Tennessee Star that requiring a superintendent to report to an authority other than a school board would be unprecedented.
JC Bowman, executive director of the Professional Educators of Tennessee, said, “That structure does not exist in Tennessee. Mayors in urban areas around the nation have closely aligned economic development with K-12 education. However, we have elected school boards to exercise oversight in the state of Tennessee of public schools.”
“To take it one step further, the responsibility for control and support of public schools is delegated in the Tennessee General Assembly, while in large measure the operation is entrusted to local school boards,” Bowman said. “The school board is the community’s watchdog on public education, thus ensuring that taxpayers get the most for their tax dollars. Taxpayers must hold school board members accountable for spending and results. School boards represent the public’s voice in public education.”
Metro Nashville Public Schools has had a turbulent time this year.
Dr. Shawn Joseph in April left as superintendent, with the school board voting 5-3 to buy his contract out to the tune of $261,250 plus up to $10,000 in legal fees to defend his license, The Star reported. NewsChannel 5 had reported that staff for the Tennessee State Board of Education had proposed a one-year suspension of his license for failing to report teacher misconduct cases.
The school board itself has been full of drama, including the departure of member Will Pinkston, who penned a break-up letter with the board on Twitter, The Star reported.
In March, Briley said he wanted to take control of the school board over its handling of Joseph.
NewsChannel 5 also ran a story in February from a town hall it held with teachers who spoke out on low morale. The causes included a lack of accountability for students who acted out and even in some cases threatened to kill teachers. They said the school system’s leadership, including Joseph, was indifferent and even hostile to their concerns.
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