Fox proposes mayor-appointed school board

Wednesday, January 23, 2008 at 1:44am

David Fox, an elected member of Nashville’s Board of Education, read a statement to a small crowd of reporters Tuesday saying he believes all school board members should be appointed by Mayor Karl Dean.

“Were he given authority by the state, Nashville’s mayor could use the influence of his position to draft our community’s most qualified residents to form a successful and diverse Metro Nashville Board of Education,” Fox said. “I request that as soon as practically and legally possible, Gov. Bredesen empower the mayor with authority over Metro Nashville Public Schools.”

Fox said he was speaking only for himself, and not for the board — in fact, he added, he has not spoken of the proposal with other board members. He said he has not “officially” discussed the matter with local officials, including the mayor.

In an e-mailed statement Tuesday afternoon, Dean did not express aversion to Fox’s proposal.

“I share Mr. Fox’s eagerness to see real changes made in our schools and I certainly appreciate his recognizing my commitment to improving our school system,” Dean said. “Having entered into a new era of accountability under No Child Left Behind, I recognize the future success of our schools will be reflected by the need for more involvement between local government and the school district.”

The announcement from Fox was made just after the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce’s presentation of its annual Report Card of Metro Nashville Public Schools. Though this year’s report was unusual in its plea for “systemic interventions… that may be considered unconventional or even radical,” Chamber education chief Marc Hill said he hadn’t heard word of Fox’s proposal until Tuesday morning.

Fox said in a Tuesday interview that the timing of his statement had more to do with the logistics of the Chamber meeting — a large group of people, plenty of reporters interested in education, and a venue separate from Metro Nashville Public Schools so as to avoid confusion between Fox’s comments and the views of the board as a whole — that led to his choice of venue. And his timing was prompted in part by the recent resignation of Director of Schools Pedro Garcia.

“I felt like this was the right time for there to be some discussion about a mayor-appointed school board,” Fox said.

These efforts may not make Fox popular with the other eight members of the Board of Education. One board member, Steve Glover, said he did not support Fox’s proposal. Another, George Thompson, said the fulfillment of Fox’s goals would upend the city. Board member Karen Johnson said she believes board appointments would open up the board to special interests, and leave residents with less recourse to influence their representatives.

“I respect David. … I don’t have any problem with him proposing an idea,” Johnson said. “But I think in terms of a board being appointed, I think that’s a slippery slope that really needs further review. I think there would be a concern that people would be selected who would support certain interests only, and I don’t think the public at large wants that.”

Fox said the statement was not directed against existing board members. He cited what he considers to be the success of other cities with mayor-appointed boards — New York City, Chicago and Boston — and said he believes the organizational challenges of overseeing a school district are too much for the average citizen.

“I’ve spoken with some friends in the educational community about it off and on for some number of months,” Fox said. “I don’t hold this out as a panacea or silver bullet. There are risks with that form of governance, as there are with the current one.”

Fox added that the idea was inspired in part by the recently published book, The Education Mayor, and later reinforced by talks of Memphis’s mayor attempting to work through Gov. Bredesen to be able to appoint school board members.

His next step? Fox said there isn’t one. His goal was only to introduce the concept into Nashville’s education dialogue as the school district begins its search for a new director of schools. A state spokesperson said Tuesday that the only legal means for Fox’s proposal to take place would be through the state Legislature, but Fox said he has no plans of lobbying.

“I see my role as the person who’s trying to stimulate public discussion of it,” Fox said. “I don’t know that there are any other steps for me to take in this. … I’m just a single board member sharing my own personal opinions.”

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By: HokeyPokey on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Remember, the Tn. idgafs want direct election of everyone from gubner down to dog catcher. If you will recall, they wanted to throw out el Pedro and replace him with one what was growed up here.

By: idgaf on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Absent doing away with the board completly I agree with Mr. Fox that we have to restore accountability and improve the qualifications of the school board.By letting the Mayor appoint them he has direct responsibility for them and he and they can answer for their actions immediately rather then wait for the next election which lets face it most don't pay attention to and/or they run unopposed.

By: HokeyPokey on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Well there's a position I hadn't considered (presuming, of course, that idgaf's not bound and gagged in a closet while somebody with two brain cells to rub together is constructing his prose).But consider that if we invest the Mayor with more and more previously diffused responsibility, that gives the Tn. idgafs a simpler, more singular target toward which to direct their vitriol.And when it comes to the Tn. idgafs, simpler is probably better. Easier to understand, don't 'cha know.

By: jzcrispgop on 12/31/69 at 6:00

This is a uniquely bad idea. Reducing the voice of the people an elected position serves has NEVER improved responsiveness, accountability, or results. This smacks of intellectual elitism..ie. "the stupid people are not capable of governing themselves". This is clearly a move away from public input or choice. Marsha Warden and this Board would have never turned on Pedro Garcia and forced him out unless the public was making life uncomfortable for them....after all these same Board members hired Garcia. Remember...this same board and DAVID FOX, gave Garcia a contract extension of 3 years AND a $17,000 per year raise, and a very POSITIVE review...all in the face of entering into "Corrective Status" because of FOUR YEARS of leadership failures only 12 months ago! These board members are the last people on this planet that ought to be advocating a reduction of the role of parents, voters, and the taxpaying public. Usually David Fox makes sense...however on this, he looks like a desperate and controlling nit-wit. This board has created a four year failing record, and its getting worse...perhaps Fox should resign if he cannot work well with others.(The public).

By: Fundit on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I am with Crisp here, too. How do we know that the most qualified and not the biggest contributors with special interests won't be the appointed ones. In this day and age, we can't afford to put all of our trust in any one person. Especially not a politician of any sort. Maybe now people will wake up and take local elections seriously and not elect these embarrassing clowns on the Board and the Council that have run amuck.

By: edu6sb on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I would not be so quick to support this. Fundit you hit some of the points. Many board appointees of the Governor over the bunker no one could influence because they were appointed and the people had no say, many of the boards like the planning commission people get mad because they are appointed and when people go against something and the decision is already made, they have no recourse. Having one person influence who gets to make the decisions and serve is dangerous. The people need to continue to have a say in our schools. As an educator, I would like to keep having the chance to have a say. I don't know the Mayor and would not get to help choose.

By: jzcrispgop on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Fundit and edu6sb...Amen!

By: jzcrispgop on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Note to readers... This is the same board that wanted to keep secret their evaluations of Garcia. When this board finally did release the evaluations, they only had the COURAGE to offer up copies with the board member issuing the evaluation redacted. So much for public service! Councilwoman Emily Evans is correct... (to paraphrase)If you want to serve the public, take a position and defend it...otherwise there are plenty of private sector jobs that will allow you to keep "stuff" to yourself. Touche' Council lady Evans!

By: girliegirl on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Mr. Crisp, parents all of Nashville spoke out against the dress code, and no one at the Board listened. No here we are into the mid-year and no progress has been made, but hundreds and hundreds of dollars have been spent in each home.... to presumably "fix" the problem. We told 'ya so..... Maybe giving Dean the actual "power and responsibility" on a temporary basis isn't such a bad idea after all~ Gosh knows, the Board doesn't care a hoot... as Pokey would say.

By: howelln on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Three words: Bellevue High School. That is why we now have an elected school board instead of the appointed one that closed Bellevue with little notice and no input. Angry citizens petitioned to change the Metro charter. The problem is not an elected school board. The problem is the board we elected. If you want a better school board, urge better candidates to run and then work to get them elected.

By: WickedTribe on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I agree with this. It's obvious the board is almost as incompetent as Garcia, so voting hasn't worked. The only problem is, what about future mayors? Yes Karl Dean is gung-ho about education and I think we can all agree to trust his appointees, but how can we predict the priorities and capabilities of future mayors? Maybe the board should be split, 50% elected and 50% appointed.

By: global_citizen on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Crisp, if you're going to spout opinions so vehemently on here, you better have your facts straight. The board didn't know the MNPS system was entering into corrective action until August '07 and the reason they didn't know is because Garcia failed (maybe deliberately) to inform them of that status. It was his specific duty to do so.And if you want to pinpoint one particular turning point in the support (or lack thereof) for Garcia, look at that one school board meeting in August. That's when the curtain was pulled back and the real Garcia was revealed.Secondly, you make some assumptions not supported by the article. You say Fox's motivation is to push parents out of the picture. Where do you get that? If anything, Fox more than anyone understands the need for greater parental involvement and for that reason has supported a return to neighborhood schools. You know, where parents actually live close enough to attend school functions and parent-teacher conferences?And yeah, you're right, the system as it is has been getting worse for four years in a row. So why do you advocate we keep on doing the same thing instead of trying something that might work better?You make no sense at all.

By: Time for Truth on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Howell makes a good point, in the bigger picture most of the comprehensive high schools are too big. If we 'throw money' at the schools instead of idiocy like the MCC, building or reopening smaller high schools closer to where people live will make them more manageable. Look at McGavock and Stratford for examples of how not to provide a high school education.Fox's plan has merit. It depends on who the mayor is, however. We've seen what happens with the Supreme Court, a W Bush (or an FDR for you righties) can leave a partisan stamp on that group for decades. If this is looked at, the board should serve at the pleasure of the mayor or leave when that mayor does. And leave Council out of it, half of them need a manual in crayon to tie their shoes.

By: lewis7412 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Here are some facts for MNPS: Algebra I which is required for graduation - for 2004 the failure rate was 33% which was the 9th highest failure rate in TN; for 2005 the failure rate was 36.7% which was the 4th highest failure rate in TN and for 2006 the failure rate was 41.3% which was the 2nd highest failure rate in TN. The failure rate for Math Foundation for 2005 was 54% and for 2006 was 58.2%. These were the highest failure rates for any district in TN. And in addition to those trends, the percentile rankings for the 3rd to 8th grades were showing decline. There is no excuse for the Board not knowing the failure rates and the trends because they are the ones that provided the figures for the information. This information was out and available to the MNPS Board before Garcia’s evaluation last year. And yet in face of increasing failure rates in subjects that are integral to a students’ capability to succeed, the board truly acted incompetently in giving Garcia a raise and a passing grade. And if you want more facts, there are factual figures that show the administration was packing the non class room staff at a much higher rate they were adding class room teachers. For 2006 they added 216 instructional staff while adding 382 non instructional staff. And they were doing this while complaining about the “necessity” of removing 81 custodians. The whole scenario is one where people (the administration with a compliant board) control the information to control people and public opinion and thus retain power. The facts are not easy to come by but when they are revealed, it is alarming. And the facts above are just the tip of the iceberg. We do not need a consolidation of power into one hand – we need a watchdog group to ensure the facts are available so we can hold proper accountability and elect responsible people. Thanks for wanting facts.

By: Cowboy84 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

If the mayor appointed the school board, imagine what it would have looked like under Bill Boner, probably his wives, ex-wives, and fiances.

By: idgaf on 12/31/69 at 6:00

By: lewis7412 on 1/23/08 Here are some facts for MNPS: Algebra I which is required for graduation - for 2004 the failure rate was 33% which was the 9th highest failure rate in TN; for 2005 the failure rate was 36.7% which was the 4th highest failure rate in TN and for 2006 the failure rate was 41.3% which was the 2nd highest failure rate in TN. **************************************Gee if we kept pedro another year he would have made us #1

By: jzcrispgop on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Global... Lewis is correct...Here are my facts that I KNOW to be true(because I have witnessed them first hand)...and I understand you may not have been clued in to the fact that SOS notified them of the impending "Corrective Status" danger for AT LEAST the past three years in their presentations to the Metro Council! The NCLB data that they themselves released was damning evidence of their knowledge of this problem for the past five years as well. As for me endorsing the current situation because I want to continue to elect the School Board is a fallacious assumption on your part and shows a lack of understanding of my position. The current sitting School Board is responsible for a lack of critical thinking skills and for allowing themselves to generally "Rubber Stamp" Dr. Garcia's every program, initiative, and suggestion for the past six years. Unfortunately...Nashville's children have suffered irreparable harm from the boards decisions as evidenced by our increasing failure rates proven by their own data. I personally refuse to blame the voters and I think that those who wish to blame them show extreme arrogance. I blame those we elected and believe we need to elect someone else. As for Mr. Fox...I believe him to be a man of good character and had believed him to be a bright light on our board but I am disappointed in him because he seems to have devolved into one of the "Kool Aid" drinkers over on Bransford Avenue. Blaming the public or blaming the voters, or blaming the parents first seems to have become a way of life at MNPS. Is there one person who will take responsibility for their decisions on this board? or...as have they succeeded in having some believe that they as part of the public are at fault? It certainly seems... global_citizen that they've succeeded with you.

By: idgaf on 12/31/69 at 6:00

When are you people going to wake up and realize that your magic bullit is vouchers.Just the threat of them will show remarkable improvement at no cost.You will think a Tornado hit Branston ave.

By: plpblack on 12/31/69 at 6:00

People are always trying to take away our (The People's) voice. Our voices may not always count but we should always definitely be able to speak. Voting gives us the right to speak.

By: MJB on 12/31/69 at 6:00

It pains me to agree w/ Crispy, since he is a corrupt moron, but even a stopped clock.... Fox's idea is a bad one. New York's & Boston's school systems still find themselves mired in politics.An elected school board forces the members to answer to their districts. I'd look into other solutions for problems w/ the board: Make them all at-large seats rather than district seat, or add more seats (either dividing Davidson County into more districts or adding at-large seats).Lewis makes a salient point about the growth in non-instructional staff. The point about failure rates in Algebra I is less potent. It's difficult to evaluate how schools perform over the short-term. Also, one criterion, like failure rates, tells us little.Please, please, please remember that removing Pedro Garcia does not equate w/ an exorcism. If the system needs examining, then replacing a director will do little.Nashville needs more teachers & lower student/teacher ratios. It needs more teaching aids to work w/ special ed. & at-risk students, and it needs less staff on Bransford Avenue.

By: idgaf on 12/31/69 at 6:00

The schools need competition.Without it they have no insentive to produce a better product.

By: stephsmom1972 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Oh what a bright one this guy is...Let's now take away any and all community participation that currently exists! This is the most ridiculous idea I've heard yet when it comes to our kids and their educations! Yeah, let's put a bunch of rich snobs in there that "know people" or who is owed a favor.....then those of us who are middle to lower class will have NO say in our children's education. Come on, the elite business people that would replace the board probably don't have kids or are too busy with their career to bother with raising their kids! We need parents elected by Parents! How do they know what is right and what is wrong for our children when they haven't raised their own! I think we should look at removing Mr. Fox due to his lack of intelligence! Do we want our kids to grow up to have ridiculously stupid ideas such as this and actually come out and suggest it to the public?And, for those parents who currently are struggling to provide the standard school attire for their children to wear now....Can you imagine what our kids would be required to wear to school? I'm sure it wouldn't be khakis and a polo shirt! An elitist wouldn't be caught dead in such attire! It is going to take the school board members, a new director and everyone in the community to make a difference in our schools. Parents need to be involved. Discipline needs to take place. And, politics need to stay out of the entire picture. These are our babies and they are the future of our nation!

By: lewis7412 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

As for impugning Mr. Crisp, it has been proven that castigating people is counterproductive and removes focus from the common task at hand. We do not need to be alienating but joining together in a common cause for the betterment of our children and our society. Algebra I was just ONE point in a whole scenario of all the subjects. The SOS presentation which was given in the Council Chambers last week should be available from the Council staff. That presentation covered elementary and high school progress in several subjects. As for adding teachers, more statistical information should be available within the next 2 weeks. It is going to be interesting to see the figures that SOS reports on the 2007 students to teacher and staff ratio. But for 2006 the MNPS student to staff ratio was 14.34 to one and the student to staff ratio was 16.8 to one. And the staff ratio is excluding any transportation staff. The student to staff ratio is very close to being the lowest in the entire state. The question begs to be asked: “Where are the teachers?” Why aren’t they in the class room? That is a management issue as they work where they are assigned. From the information available, it would seem that we don’t need more teachers; we just need them in the class room. And why is the staff ratio approaching the same ratio as the teacher ratio? By the way, that ratio for teachers is just the classification for class room teachers. Librarians, counselors, secretaries, principals, etc. are in the staff numbers. Schism is how those in power and responsibility keep us off guard. We should be joining together with pertinent and factual information while discarding our emotional attachments. I think we should get together with SOS and then we can validate/invalidate for ourselves what all is going on. It only represents a danger when we don’t want contradicted that which we desire to believe. Are we willing to work beyond our opinions and what we want to believe? As just said, it’s going to take “everyone in the community to make a difference in our schools.”

By: global_citizen on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Crisp, you're so full of crap I don't know where to begin. Apparently you're not as clued in as you think you are. The first instance the school board became aware that MNPS was going into corrective action was at the school board meeting on August 25th when Connie Smith, the director of accountability for the TN state dept. of education, informed them of that. I know because I WAS THERE. You obviously were not. What relevance does a presentation to Metro Council have to the school board. Obviously not a lot. And obviously, you don't know that. You seem to imply that I'm being duped by the powers that be. Considering what I've just read from you, you might want to take a look in the mirror to see who's being duped.

By: HokeyPokey on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I see idgaf broke loose from being bound and gagged this morning. The idiot logic, the bad spelling and the indefensible syntax are back.

By: jzcrispgop on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Global You miss my point...or don't want to concede my point. If the members of the board were listening for the past three years, they were told DIRECTLY that we were well into territory academically where we would be moved into corrective status. Dr. Carolyn Baldwin Tucker, Former Metro Councilwoman, 30 year Metro Principal, Director of Elementary Schools for MNPS, Director of Graduate Studies in Education at Lipscomb University, AND a State of Tennessee Board of Education Exemplary Educator that turned around severa failing schools in Chattanooga TN. for the state, sent a letter to Board Chaiwoman Marsha Warden, TWO YEARS AGO, telling her that we were in immediate danger of going into "Corrective Status". It is public record, look it up. Who or what exactly are you defending? I suppose that when you step off of the curb and see the headlights of a truck...you wait until it hits you so that you can say...Yep...Its a truck. Care to comment?

By: Concernedparent on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Back to Standard School Attire, an idea which had only studies created by clothing marketers to support it. Mr. Fox and Mr. North are the only members of the board to oppose it. For anyone who is struggling now to provide this attire, recall that Mr. Fox and Mr. North tried to prevent a situation where one's existing clothing would become obsolete.I think Mr. Fox has recognized that there were a lot of people on the board who valued grandstanding more than something sensible, and that those members are entrenched. But, an appointed board will have precisely the same problems. One never knows if people will act in sensible ways, whether appointed or elected.

By: Concernedparent on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Also, about NCLB generally. There is a petition out there that points out that the natural result of NCLB over a period of several years is to turn all schools into failing schools, as the standards keep rising. Meanwhile the tests are not aligned to what should be learned, or a broad education including science, history and the arts. So, while it is sickening that MNPS has such abysmal mathematics and science education, it is not a surprise that the subgroup analysis is going to cause the district to fail.

By: Fundit on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Concerned. I don't buy the SSA has caused a financial hardship. It's just not a big deal. Walk in any thrift shop in town and you will see a sea of khaki, polo and button downs. Now, if you're student insists on expensive preppy J. Crew, Abercrombie etc. for their attire, then it's time to say no. Otherwise, this policy is a true money and time saver. Move on.

By: Time for Truth on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Not to mention Target and the annual sales tax holiday on school attire, Fundit. There's nothing wrong with SSA, it's worked with no problems in surrounding counties. id, this 'the schools need competition' argument is idiotic twaddle fostered by the same people who say the utility companies DON'T need competition. NCLB is a good idea gone wrong. What was supposed to standardize the level of achievement is instead an unfunded federal mandate that is mismanaged by a White House obsessed with profiteering adventurism and dismantling the Constitution.

By: global_citizen on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Crisp, stop with the ad hominem attacks. I'm not defensive about anything. I'm merely pointing out facts. The board was not informed of corrective action until August 25, 2007. Simple as that. What is your interest in denying that? If Ms. Warden dismissed the prognostications of Carolyn Baldwin Tucker, she's not alone. She's got company in a majority of Nashville citizens. Tucker, for all her credentials, seems to have a few screws loose and is seen by many as a loony bird. The fact that she would sing her replies during her vice-mayoral debates didn't help things much.

By: robmorris on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I agree with this. fox in on the money. the details at this point are trivial. the bottom line is that metro needs a new approach, one that is united with the mayor's vision of the city. we elected the mayor and should empower him with the ability to enhance and direct aspects of the community that directly affect all of us. education should be the topmost priority, our children are our future and I feel we should encourage dialogue. that is what Fox is doing. that is all. at least he raised this point. I do not see other trying to find a solution. good for him. At least somebody is trying to see outside the box that we have built around our children, given the current state of affairs that is really poor. the US has a low education standard compared to the rest of the world, a low standard of living...10th or so, 27th in healthcare, highest infant mortality rate among the industrialized nations, 12000 gun deaths a year, etc etc. At least Fox has the gumption to express his opinion and produce an alternative point of view to counter our increasingly deplorable educational system. isn't TN 2nd last in the country for education? let's get some fresh points of view and move forward, enhancing the future of our children, of our communities. thanks David for standing up and at least giving us some options other than those chosen in the past which has resulted in our dire education standards here in our state.