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.