By Peter White

NASHVILLE, TN — Federal aid to Metro Schools may be cut by $7.54 million. Faced with a smaller budget, Dr. Shawn Joseph, Director of Schools, is reaching out to parents to do more with less next year.

“We feel with the budget that we have, we have addressed a lot of the parent’s inquiries that came about regarding what are we doing to increase rigor,” Joseph said.

Joseph said that after spending a year listening to parents and teachers, his administration has a list of priorities. They include:

1) Literacy specialists and gifted and talented staff in all schools

2) More AP and IB courses for high school students and money to pay for tests and certifications at academy schools.

3) More support and training for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) in Metro’s 45 middle schools.

4) 31 new ELL teachers for 1,000 new students whose native language is not English.

Coordinating these priorities has begun with a brick and mortar assessment of school facilities. Four community meetings have been called this month to get input about the district’s 10-year Facility Master Plan. MGT Consulting is assessing the educational suitability, condition, quality and technology readiness of every site and building in the district.

From the facilities report and community responses, the district will develop “themes and scenarios” for further community discussion in July and August. The results will be presented to the Board of Education sometime in Fall 2017. This report will be Joseph’s playbook, his call to action.

Joseph has been getting the lay of the land since he arrived last year. Now he is about to make changes on the ground.  Getting parents, teachers, and others really involved in making those changes will prove to be a crucial test of his leadership.

Grade structure, getting programs into more school efficiently, and better ways to use buildings to support academics will be on the agenda.

The meeting schedule can be found here:

Attendees will have the chance to take home free books and passes to the Frist Center of the Visual Arts and the Country Music Hall of Fame.  The district has been using its new web portal software to robo-call Metro families and offer rides to and from the meetings.

Joseph has spent a lot of time gaining parents’ input and support and sustaining their involvement is clearly something he values highly.

Joseph proposed a school budget of $903 million for 2017-18: the mayor approved a school budget of $879.3 million, an increase of $36 million or 4.3 percent more than last year. But that’s $23 million less than Joseph wanted.

Joseph’s top priority is closing the achievement gap in Metro schools which are rated 60th out of 143 schools districts in Tennessee by the online website NICHE.  Davidson County is ranked last among six nearby school districts. The rankings are: Williamson County, Wilson County, Rutherford County, Sumner County, Robertson County, and Davidson County.  In 2015, Davidson County schools ranked 115th out of 134 districts by the online school search engine,

Joseph says that paying more to attract good teachers, creating challenging curricula, and ensuring equity in funding and programs offered at Metro’s 168 schools are the means to give every student a quality education. That’s easier said than done.

More than half of Metro’s 86,000 students are low income. According to national and statewide data, economically disadvantaged students are more at risk and need more services to succeed than their peers.

The city council might add $900 thousand for school nurses. If the council doesn’t pass an amended budget by June 30, Mayor Barry’s budget becomes final.

“A lot of council members feel we need school nurses because the only place some of these kids get medical services is in the school,” said At-Large Councilman Jim Shulman.

As we have previously reported, the White House education budget eliminates 22 school programs that will cut federal school funding by $10.6 billion. Metro schools will be short an estimated  $7.5 million if Congress passes the President’s budget.

The things low-income students need, like before and after school programs, tutoring services, medical and counseling services, while vital to students’ success, are absent from the President’s education budget.

“I don’t think President Trump’s budget benefits poor school districts at all. The funds that he is proposing to cut for training, for programs like our Gear Up programs, funds to support poor children, funds to support special education students, will significantly hurt school districts especially large school districts like Davidson County,” said Joseph.

The President’s budget not only cuts programs that promote college readiness among the most vulnerable students but also takes Title 1 funds, which are earmarked for low-income students, and repurposes them to be used as vouchers to pay tuition at private schools.

“With today’s FY18 budget, we are left to wonder not only if the administration supports our nation’s public schools, but also why the budget is so deliberate to make deep, damaging cuts,” wrote Daniel A. Domenech, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators (AASA).

MNPS Next Community 

Meeting Schedule


5:30 P.M. | Food Served

6 – 7:30 P.M. | Program

Creswell Middle Prep School of the Arts

3500 John Mallette Drive, Nashville, TN 37218

Spanish, Arabic and Somali interpretation

Child care


10 A.M. | Food Served

10:30 A.M. – 12 P.M. | Program

Cane Ridge High School

12848 Old Hickory Boulevard, Nashville, TN 37013

Spanish, Arabic, Kurdish, Somali, Nepali and Burmese interpretation

Child care


5:30 P.M. | Food Served

6 – 7:30 P.M. | Program

Hillsboro High School

3812 Hillsboro Pike, Nashville, TN 37215

Spanish, Arabic, Kurdish, Somali, Nepali and Burmese interpretation

Child care


10 A.M. | Food Served

10:30 A.M. – 12 P.M. | Program

Stratford Stem Magnet School

1800 Stratford Avenue, Nashville, TN 37216

Spanish, Arabic and Somali interpretation

Child care