By Reginald Stuart
NASHVILLE, TN — Public Schools across the city shift into full gear this week, when the four new members of the board of governors of the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools System officially begin their first full day today setting policy and overseeing the educational staff running the city schools for more than 86,000 students.
“We are excited for the 2022-23 school year and look forward to building on the successes from last year to provide an even better learning experience for students,” said Dr. Adrienne Battle, public school superintendent. Each of the four new school board members serve for a term of four years.
District 2 – Rachael Anne Elrod, educator who has spent nearly a decade teaching elementary school and advocating changing assessment methods
District 8 – Erin O’Hara Block, a Nashville public schools graduate and education researcher.
District 4 – Dr. Berthena Nabaa-McKinney, an educator who briefly served on the school board in 2020
District 6 – Cheryl Mayes, a former school board member from 2010 to 2014 who has served ad district director for U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper
The 11,000 employees system is still about 130 full-time teachers short of its 5,000 teacher goal and about 70 people short of the 250 school bus drivers budgeted, Dr. Battle noted, echoing school officials school administrators and recruiters across the country about staff shortages. Still, she said the team she has is ready for the school year challenges ahead.
“…We grew significantly above projections, and now the challenge we face is to build from that foundation and continue to grow so that we can close historic learning gaps that existed even prior to the pandemic,” said Dr. Battle, noting the city’s public school system had one of the highest rankings in the state for local public schools.
As for lessons learned and guidance for teachers, staff and students looking ahead, Dr. Battle said, “The pandemic pushed us to become a 1:1 technology district, meaning each student is offered a laptop, and we have incorporated more technology into the normal school environment. We have also increased the level of support for students in tutoring, summer programming, and social-emotional learning.”
Also, during the step up to address the needs of students, teachers and parents the school system says it has added school psychologists, counselors, school nurses, advocacy center coaches, restorative practices assistants, general assistants (permanent substitutes), and uses contracted services to provide mental health support.
The last two years required the system to reinvent its playbook. Fortunately, the city council played a key role in supporting the school system, said Dr. Battle, helping it weather state education cuts in the Republican-controlled state legislature.
“The State of Tennessee has dramatically underfunded public education in statewide and in particular MNPS (the Nashville school system),” said Dr. Battle. “The Mayor and Metro Council have stepped up to make up the difference while also investing in teachers and staff to raise pay to be more competitive in the talent-search, she said.
To energize its staff recruitment and development efforts, the school system has worked with the various higher education institutions in the “Athens of the South” on a “Grow Your Own program” which provides support staff opportunities to earn a teaching certificate.
The school system holds several hiring fairs a year and promotes openings via job search sites, it said. There are options available to hire permitted, but not certificated, teachers.
The school board says it is working with the retired teachers association to recruit retirees based on new state laws that grant greater flexibility to those staff, in addition to previously existing 120-day positions for those who don’t want to commit to a full teaching year.
The new school board members seem to reflect a mood among voters to quell the sporadic unrest among board members in debating covid-era challenges and racial discord. The public will get a sense of the new board’s tone when it meets in full next month.
Schools opened August 8 with buses beginning pickup at 6:30 a.m., earlier in some instances. Based on the existing schedule the school year in brief is as follows:
70-Elementary schools start go from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
29-Middle School go from 8:55 to 3:55 p.m.
33-High Schools go from 7:05 a.m.to 2:05 p.m.
Three Alternative Education Centers
28 Charter and Three Exceptional Education Centers.