Metro Nashville Public Schools Set to Hold Taxpayer-Funded, Out-of-State Summer Retreat

Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) principals will head north in June to Louisville, Kentucky for a summer retreat Nashville school district participants like to call “Principal Splash.” MNPS spokesman Sean Braisted told The Tennessee Star, “Principal Splash is an opportunity for tier-based and cluster-based planning and professional learning that also allows for peer bonding.”

While in Louisville, they’ll be put up by the district at the Galt House Hotel. As participants of the Splash, Braisted said, “Principals with Academies programs will stay two nights, and one night for remaining principals.” He noted, “Group transportation will be provided by the district, and we are anticipating approximately 180 staff altogether. Transportation and meals are provided for MNPS personnel, but spouses are allowed to join and stay in the hotel if they so choose.”

It is unclear what services are available in Louisville that are unavailable in Nashville. JC Bowman, executive Director for Professional Educator of Tennessee told The Star in an email, “It does not seem like a good use of taxpayer dollars to take school principals out of state, and out of the public eye, to discuss public strategy for public education.”

He added, “These kinds of activities invite closer scrutiny and lead to legitimate questions from taxpayers about why this is even necessary.  All government travel should have a direct, clear, and immediate purpose that improves student achievement and outcomes. This should be shared with the public.”

Under previous Superintendent Shawn Joseph, MNPS froze teacher travel for professional training while undertaking a budget analysis after coming under scrutiny for travel expenses. Further criticism was delivered when it was revealed that school board members were traveling despite the travel freeze. During Joseph’s tenure, the board held three retreats in Chattanooga. A later audit raised further questions about an $845,000 contract with Performance Matters for professional development software.

MNPS holds its professional development offerings at the district’s Martin Professional Development Center.  The Center was opened in 2008 and billed as “a state-of-the-art facility dedicated solely to the quality of teaching and instruction in the classroom”. This is where weekly district-wide principal meetings are also held.

Under current Superintendent Adrianne Battle’s leadership, the district began staging an annual principal retreat outside of Nashville starting in 2001. In June of that year, the gathering was held at Montgomery Bell State Park, just outside of Nashville. Last year, Battle held the Principal Splash in Florence, Alabama.

“The Louisville location is relatively close in proximity, and the site is able to accommodate our conference needs,” Braisted said.

Last year’s retreat focused on the zoned pathways and forging connections between the various tiers within a school zone. The agenda for this year has not yet been shared.

In addition to the principal retreat, the district has invested heavily in teacher travel for professional development. In June and July 2022, MNPS spent over half a million dollars to send representatives from every school in the district to either Tampa Bay or San Antonio for Summer AVID training. AVID is an educational resource company that focuses on helping districts prepare high-needs students for post-secondary education opportunities. According to their website, “For one period a day, students receive the additional academic, social, and emotional support that will help them succeed in their school’s most rigorous courses.”

Some of the money for AVID training was derived through ESSER funds. When asked about thAVID POse source of funding for this year’s principal retreat, Braisted responded that funding for Splash comes from the district’s professional development operating budget. MNPS did not respond to questions asking for further clarity.

MNPS ‘current operating budget is $1,017,807,500.

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TC Weber is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. He also writes the blog Dad Gone Wild. Follow TC on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected] He’s the proud parent of two public school children and the spouse of a public school teacher.
Photo “Louisville, Kentucky” by Ken Lund. CC BY-SA 2.0.


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One Thought to “Metro Nashville Public Schools Set to Hold Taxpayer-Funded, Out-of-State Summer Retreat”

  1. Cannoneertwo

    Didn’t many of our legislators just return from a conference in Las Vegas last fall?