Live from Music Row Friday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Michael Patrick Leahy welcomed MNPS District Six school board member Fran Bush to the newsmakers line to discuss the recent victory over former Superintendent of MNPS Shawn Joseph.
Leahy: Big news yesterday broke. A legal victory for Fran Bush, a member of the Metro Nashville Public School Board and two other school board members who sued because their First Amendment rights and their 14th Amendment rights were denied by an agreement that was in the settlement of the severance package of former school director Sean Joseph.
Bush: Good morning. How is everybody?
Leahy: Well this looks like a major legal victory for you. Were you surprised that the Chancellor of Courts ruled in your favor on this?
Bush: Absolutely not. Our attorney came to us and said, this is wrong and we need to get this right. They were so shocked that our Metro legal team even joined in hands with Shean Joseph. They knew that this was a wrong decision to add in this agreement. And we knew that we were going to have a victory. We had no doubt.
Leahy: Basically it said that you individually, as a board member, could not say anything to disparage Dr. Joseph. Who, by the way, was a complete disaster. As you know. And now you win in chancellory court. Now does that mean that today you could articulate for the public your criticisms of Dr. Joseph, or do you have to wait for an appeal on this?
Bush: No, no, no. They couldn’t even appeal anything like this. The judge actually threw the book at Metro legal and Sean Joseph. So we are not even thinking about any type of appeal because they will not win. To this day, and even before, we were still having conversations about Dr. Joseph’s leadership. So we never wavered as far as how we felt and the truth of why he is no longer the superintendent of our schools. We never wavered when it came to that.
Leahy: So what is the truth? Why is no long the Superintendent of schools?
Bush: I’m glad you asked. He came with nothing but corrections. And he manipulated the board. This is before I was elected on the school board. And Jill and Amy started to discover…
Leahy: And your fellow board members are Jill Spearing and Amy Frock.
Bush: Yes. So right before I became elected on the school board I watched this play out. And the first statement that I made when I became elected in the first board meeting that I attended I said that your time is up. And I made it very clear to Sean Joseph that his time was up.
Because these ladies endured such horrible backlash as a result of them finding out the corruption that he and his team brought to Nashville. And by the way, he came from Prince George County so you can look at his history. He did it there. He did it here. And wherever he is, everybody beware of Sean Joseph.
Leahy: You know I read all these stories that he brought a crew of his pals from Maryland and they had big SUVs and they rent a house or something? It was shocking to me to see all this stuff.
Bush: Oh yeah it was to me. He had a driver. Got one of our bus drivers to drive him around. He spent 1,000s of dollars to pay a driver that should have been driving a bus. He paid for all his posse to come and milk us on our salaries.
And then of course moral went down in our teaching arena where teachers were leaving us because of poor leadership and lack of leadership and the horribleness they saw in Sean Joseph’s leadership. It was just so appalling to see.
Of course with the contract and number of lawsuits we had never had this many lawsuits filed by any employee. There were sexual harassment lawsuits. I couldn’t believe it. And we spent millions of dollars. He wasn’t even with us right at two years and taxpayers just had to pay for it.
And just so everybody knows, with our lawsuit we are not gaining any financial means of this. All the money that went towards legal fees is going back into charity. That was one of the agreements that we made when we filed this lawsuit.
Leahy: Who was the attorney that represented you, Jill, and Amy?
Bush: Yes. Daniel Horowitz. Daniel was awesome. He did an awesome job of representing us. A very fine attorney.
Leahy: Daniel Horowitz did a great job then. How did you decide to go about filing this lawsuit? Because it was a pretty daunting task. How did you decide that it was worth doing?
Bush: Well Daniel reached out to us. He reached out to me, Jill and Amy. We had a meeting to discuss these types of options that he saw were definitely wronged by us. And we actually didn’t know what to do. So he brought it to our attention and his expertise in this field. He basically laid out the facts. And what happened that was so wrong. And everything was all piled up against Joseph and Metro legal for not doing their job.
And therefore we knew at that point we had a great attorney on our team that was willing to file this lawsuit. And literally was excellent in what he did. And he just did what he did. And he did not bother us. He always updated us on what the next steps were or where we were in the lawsuit. And in the end, we got victory.
Leahy: There are nine members of the Metro Nashville School Board. So three have this stunning victory for the first amendment, the 14th amendment, and the constitution and you can now say whatever you want about Shawn Joseph’s poor performance as the director of schools here in Nashville public schools. What’s been the reaction of the other six members of the board to this lawsuit and to your victory.
Bush: We have three additional new board members that just came on board this year. And so the prior board members that are still with us that still in their seats they have been completely silent of course because they voted as you may have seen the record that it was three to five.
Five members voted in favor of this unconstitutional decision. And we were totally shocked. Myself, Jill and Amy were looking at them like are you serious? And I made a statement on the board floor. At the time John Cooper, he was the attorney for Metro legal.
Leahy: A different John Cooper. Not the mayor.
Bush: Let me be clear. But I questioned him. I said what are you doing? You know better, and why would you even agree to this disparaging thing in this agreement. His answer was well you know, don’t worry about it. You can still go about your lives.
And this right here is really just a part of the contract. It’s not going to hurt anything. So he really downplayed it. So we were thinking no, this is definitely not right. So we knew that. We just didn’t know until Attorney Horowitz came to us and say no, we’ve got to get this right.
Leahy: It looks like you have friends and allies in Amy and Jill and yet there does seem to be a majority of the Metro Nashville Public School board that has a different view. What are those meetings like when you go in there? Are they kind of frosty towards you?
Bush: No. It’s OK. They are a little frustrated because I’m no for what they stand for. And I have made my complete statement and have stayed firm that I’m all about being right and not being on the wrong side of the tracks.
And I am not in this position for politics. I’m in this position for the people. We are elected officials. That’s what they need to understand and we are elected by the people. And for some reason, they are not doing that job.
Listen to the full second hour here:
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