In a Metro Nashville School Board (MNSB) meeting that turned heated Tuesday night, one of the school board members directed a curse towards parents.
Parents who attended the meeting – but were not allowed to speak – cheered when the board voted seven to one in favor of ending the school system’s mask mandate on March 21, when students return from their spring break.
But the deal is not sealed yet.
Director of Schools Adrienne Battle, despite making the recommendation to end the mask mandate, said that the issue should be revisited at the next school board meeting in mid-March, drawing the ire of the parents.
Those parents were met with hostility from MNSB member Gini Pupo-Walker, who called being an elected member of the board “an act of service,” and complained that members only get paid “f***ing $300 every two weeks for this.”
Pupo-Walker later apologized for the curse word and asked if the livestream had a delay so that the curse could be edited out. It did not.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the video of the meeting has not been uploaded to MNSB’s website or to its YouTube channel.
The Tennessee Star’s CEO and Editor-in-Chief Michael Patrick Leahy hosted Fran Bush, an MNSB member, on his radio show Wednesday morning to discuss the events of the previous evening.
Below is the transcript:
Leahy: We are joined on our newsmaker line now by our very good friend, school board member Fran Bush. Good morning, Fran.
Bush: Good morning. Hi, everyone.
Leahy: So, a feisty school board meeting last night. Tell us about what happened.
Bush: Oh, my gosh. You know parents are very tired, right? The chairwoman wanted to remove parents because they were very frustrated.
Leahy: So hold on. The chairwoman of the Metro Nashville Public School Board wanted to remove the parents from the room?
Bush: Yes. Move the parents from the room.
Leahy: Who is the chairwoman?
Bush: That’s Christiane Buggs.
Leahy: And why did Christiane want to do that?
Bush: After Dr. Battle makes the announcement that March 11 will be after spring break, the kids can have an option only if the numbers are still down. And that did not go across the parents very well.
Leahy: This is conditional.
Bush: Conditional. And parents said, oh, here we go again. It’s been two years, Mike. Two years next month and these children are still masked. And it’s just enough.
Leahy: Was there a vote on this?
Leahy: What was the vote?
Bush: My vote was to immediately have masks optional. Where they kind of wanted to do a little trick last night, and wanted to give Dr. Battle the autonomy once again to make her decision to March 11th, conditionally, if the numbers are down.
Leahy: Got it.
Bush: So my vote was not that way. But it’s okay because as my husband told me, sometimes you have to kind of go against the grain to get what you want. They were so caught up in trying to fight me, they still voted to have it for March 11th.
So parents still got what they wanted, even though she’s going to try to come with this about the numbers. It depends on the numbers. Which that’s not going to work.
Leahy: What was the vote to give her the authority to give the school director, Dr. Adrienne Battle, who obviously has gotten the science wrong from the very beginning, to give her the authority to maintain mask mandates in the event that the numbers of infections go up. Is that basically what they said, under her discretion.
Bush: Under her discretion, based on the numbers. And that’s when, if it changes, it depends on the numbers if they continue to rise. Right? Of course, we know the numbers are going down tremendously and that’s always some type of excuse to keep the power and the control.
And that’s what I said last night. That’s why the legislature continues to bark down on local school districts like this, because we’re not doing what we’re supposed to do, period.
Leahy: What was the atmosphere of that meeting? Did the parents get to talk at all?
Bush: No, at this particular meeting, no, it was about public participation, but they came with their signs, they came with their cares, and some talked out loud and were expressing their concerns. But overall, they were respectful. But you can definitely understand their frustration.
Leahy: Did the chairperson order the room to be cleared at some point of parents?
Bush: Yes. She ordered them to be cleared and spoke with security and was trying to make a decision to bring them back. You can do that, but you still have to tread carefully because it’s still a public meeting.
And just because there were some outbursts doesn’t mean, and it depends on how it gets out of control, but they were not that out of control. You could tell the frustration of pedaling back on when the kids can finally breathe again.
Leahy: What are the odds that Adrienne Battle is going to reverse this on the optional mask choice on March 11th? What are the odds? Do you think that she’s going to reverse it, and then there’ll be another big brouhaha over masks?
Bush: I think she’s going to be very careful. I think last night was an example of parents that are fed up. And if she does not carry this out on March 11th, then I think it’s going to be a whole lot of backlash. When I say backlash, meaning that parents are really going to come out and really protest and probably call upon the state again because this is the law. We’re breaking the law, too. So the law has been put in place for months and we continue not to follow the law.
Leahy: What are your other board members saying when they look at this? Do any of the other board members on this issue have your same common-sense view of wanting to eliminate masks immediately in Metro Nashville Public schools?
Bush: You just said common sense. No. None.
Leahy: (Chuckles) What’s it like being in this Lilliputian land where other board members still think their ideas, which aren’t backed by science, are backed by science? What’s it like being in this?
Bush: I’ve always stood up. And it doesn’t bother me because this is my assignment for these children. And I would just say that the science is the science. And they’re not following the science. They’re following the power, is what they want. Power.
Leahy: I think you nailed it. Why do so many of them love having power? That will be a hanging chad on this conversation. Hey, thanks. Come in studio again soon, if you would please.
Bush: Okay. I’ll be there.
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Pete D’Abrosca is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. Follow Pete on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Background Photo “Metro Nashville Public School Board Meeting Room” by Metro Nashville Public School Board.