Weekly Obsession: Nothing left to lose

Tuesday, August 21, 2012 at 7:05pm

The outgoing school board had one last stand to make.

The nine-member Board of Education had already rejected the application of the Great Hearts Academies charter school, citing concerns about the commitment of the charter — to be located in generally more affluent West Nashville — to diversity and questioning its vague transportation plan.

The school — backed by a bevy of well-heeled and powerful people — then appealed to the state, which approved the charter.

And then it headed back to Metro for what was expected to be a perfunctory rubber-stamp, approving what they were ordered to do by powers on high.

But something happened on the way to the imprimatur.

In the last meeting for four members, the school board refused the order.

Three of those members — board chair Gracie Porter, Ed Kindall and Mark North — were Great Hearts opponents, and each played a key role in the ultimate 7-2 vote to defy the state.

Porter held fast to school board rules, telling Great Hearts’ attorney — who wanted to speak to the board during the debate — that the time for public participation was over.

North suggested a quorum-killing walkout.

And Kindall spoke vehemently against Great Hearts in a 10-minute oration citing Brown v. Board of Education and the importance of diversified schools. Told by the board’s attorney that the state required charter approval, North asked, “Or else what?” and Kindall defiantly added, “Or else what? We’ll go to jail?”

Ultimately, the board adopted a motion to defer the application indefinitely, prompting a state response that it was within its rights to withhold state money for MNPS. If anything, the question lies on the next school board, with four new members, only one of whom, Elissa Kim, has professed strong support for charters.

The state often uses a velvet glove with local school boards — tying funding to the adoption of certain policies is a common tactic — and rarely do those school boards say no.

But rarely do big important questions of state and local power come at such a time, a time when defeated or retiring board members are tackling their last agenda.

Freedom, the song tells us, is just another word for nothing left to lose.

And a school board stands up and says no.

8 Comments on this post:

By: Ask01 on 8/21/12 at 10:24

At least some in city government have a backbone.

By: Left-of-Local on 8/22/12 at 7:51

Those idiots were inconsistently grandstanding for their own ego and insistence on local yokels being able to trump larger rule. Screw them.

Where was the citing of Brown v. BOE when they RE-SEGREGATED THE SCHOOLS? Where was their love of diversity when they approved that retarded dress code that forces small kids not to wear perfectly-durable denim?

These clowns were not in it for anyone but themselves, possibly with their eyes on the rest of their political careers, rather than a true spirit to serve. Good riddance.

NOW, NEW BOARD: Sit down in front of the public, have some balls, and admit your predecessors were manipulative relics and self-contradicting buffoons, and THEN handle this with a fresh debate.

By: Houston on 8/22/12 at 11:57

This opinion piece makes it sound like the out-going school board was a set of heroes. In fact, they maintained policies that caused the middle class to flee Davidson County. Rather than a school system that helps each child achieve its highest potential, they created a school system engaged in a chimerical attempt to erase the racial achievement gap--a school system that neglects the best and brightest and focuses on the dysfunctional. Good riddance to them.

By: dogmrb on 8/22/12 at 5:33

Every school board will eventually be disparaged. Run for school board if you are so much wiser than they.

By: govskeptic on 8/23/12 at 7:30

If these three think they are going out with a halo of heroism, then
only their families and a few leftist educators are clapping.

By: watchdog55 on 8/23/12 at 11:24

I do not know much about charter schools, and I must confess I have not been keeping abreast of School Board actions until recently; but, I am concerned regarding another piece in the paper today:

"While Tennessee high school students’ ACT test scores may have slightly improved over last year’s marks, the state still ranked just above rock bottom in the country with only Mississippi below. Of all Tennessee graduates, 16 percent met all four ACT college readiness benchmarks"

This is so sad; the entire state is doing poorly. I was educated in Tennessee public schools and colleges. My children were educated in Tennessee public schools and colleges. I did well in school, learned a lot and went on to a successful professional career. What has happened to our education system? Has power and greed taken over at the risk of our children's education? Who has dropped the ball - parents, teachers, school board, state - or perhaps a combination of all? These children are the future; they deserve better.

By: Ask01 on 8/23/12 at 8:31

Once again, I suggest we staff the school board not with people seeking an elected office, but with parents drawn from the active PTA members (or whatever it's called today) at Metro schools.

This would insure we have people on the board who actually have a stake in the process, actual parents of students.

We would also have people answerable directly to their respective schools and with an obligation to ensure the best courses of action are pursued to benefit the entire system, not just small enclaves.

Best of all, the selection process would be elevated beyond a beauty, popularity, or spending contest.

By: Djc on 9/1/12 at 8:45

Good riddance. I'm glad they are gone!