Members of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce said they are displeased with the Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS), so much so the schools might require a dramatic restructuring — at least at the school board level.
Axios reported this week that chamber members might prefer to do away with electing school board members. Instead, local government officials could appoint them.
Stephanie Coleman is the chamber’s chief talent development officer. Coleman did not confirm the accuracy of Axios’ reporting in an email to The Tennessee Star on Wednesday. But she said current MNPS practices do not produce desired outcomes.
“The system, in its current form, is not well-equipped and resourced to address urgent needs of families AND focus on students’ academic performance,” Coleman wrote.
“This is evident in the district’s academic measures which have seen incremental gains and losses over the last several decades but have not shown consistent and steady improvement.”
MNPS District 6 Board Member Fran Bush (pictured above) told The Star on Wednesday that chamber officials’ reported desire to appoint school board members “is absolutely ridiculous.”
“Who says this? Who comes up with this? The reason why the legislators are getting pissed off on the hill is because of the stupid stuff that we are choosing to do down on the local level. For example, when we close our schools for a whole year. We cannot close our schools again during any pandemic. Because it hurt our children,” Bush said.
“And instead of the two largest school districts coming up with some type of smart choices, this is why the laws are being made. Do I agree with all of them? No. But if we continue to make these types of decisions that affect our kids negatively and it creates learning loss and parents not having a voice then this is what you are going to see. School boards all over this district have been a problem, not just here, but across this country. They have made these decisions that have silenced parents. And then parents are pissed off. To me, this is an opportunity for the chamber to try to take some kind of control, and that is not going to happen.”
Coleman, however, said chamber officials are seeking the best ways to drive student success.
“Other cities across the country have restructured their governance systems to align roles and responsibilities such that one party is directly responsible for the outcomes of the school system. In many cases, this accountability rests with the mayor,” Coleman said.
“In a school system like MNPS where many students come to school with significant social and economic challenges, increased alignment between MNPS and Metro government could reduce duplication, increase efficiency, and ensure better economies of scale, allowing government services to best meet the needs of Metro Schools. Still, governance change is not a silver bullet. Education improvement is complex, which is why it’s critical to look at a broad range of issues that can impact student outcomes.”
MNPS District 4 Board Member John Little told The Star on Wednesday that he won’t just go along with whatever the chamber wants.
“I think they should put it on the ballot and let us decide,” Little said.
“I just think it should be up to the people. A small group of people should not make decisions for the many.
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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Fran Bush” by Fran Bush Facebook. Background Photo “MNPS” by Metro Nashville Public Schools.