Metro School Board

By Niara Savage

Amy Frogge, Jill Speering and Fran Bush should be removed from the Metro Nashville Board of Public Education.

In mean-spirited coordinated efforts that Mayor David Briley suggested ran afoul of open-meetings law, these three school board members conspired to sow chaos in Metro Nashville Public Schools.

During twice-monthly board meetings, they’ve paralyzed the nine-member board by hurling unfounded allegations against MNPS administrators — intentionally impeding the board’s ability to conduct even basic business, and serving their own bitter agenda at the expense of the thousands of children in the MNPS 

Off the board floor, they’ve terrorized MNPS staff with endless document and research demands that chewed up hundreds if not thousands of man- and woman-hours, detracting from staff members’ ability to carry out their main job — supporting students and teachers in the field.

They’ve funneled lies and half-truths about MNPS that served as the basis for reporting by a local TV station. They’ve tried to incite masked protests at board meetings. At every opportunity, they have distracted the community with shallow criticisms of Dr. Joseph to deflect public attention, and disguise their coordinated efforts.  Allies of the three schemers have suddenly surfaced to progress  the vendetta in the pages of this newspaper. 

The net result: The first African-American superintendent in the history of our city walked away from the job, frustrated by the hostile working environment–a loss for the city of Nashville. A long-serving board member threw in the towel, declaring the board to be “impossibly inept.” Now, just as Frogge, Speering and Bush dusted off their hands in satisfaction, the Tennessee Department of Education is circling to take control of MNPS, in whole or in part. After all, a third of the school board has cast a shadow over Nashville by suggesting to the state the city is unable to manage its own affairs.

Our view: Enough already. The school board has, as Mayor Briley rightly put it, one “last chance” to get its act together. But in order to stabilize the situation and avert a state takeover, the board needs to be purged of its dysfunctional elements. Put plainly, that means Frogge, Speering and Bush must go.

Currently, efforts are underway to recall Bush from office. Similar moves are being considered against Frogge and Speering. But whether it’s at the ballot box or in the boardroom, these individuals must be held accountable for the crisis of confidence they’ve created in our school system. 

If community leaders made any mistake in all this mess, it was sitting by too quietly and not getting involved as the board devolved. We’re not going to make that mistake again.

In the coming weeks and months, we’ll organize a series of community meetings to apply and maintain pressure on Frogge, Speering and Bush for whatever limited time they’ve got remaining on the board–effectively beating them at their own game. If they try to perpetuate the antics that created this bedlam, they need to be immediately called out publicly and not allowed to wreak further harm on MNPS.

Unfortunately, our community will need time to recover from the pain inflicted by one-third of the school board.

Now, the city should rally around the interim director of schools and give [HIM OR HER] the support needed to lead the institution forward in the short term. And the board needs to give [HIM OR HER] the space and respect that Frogge, Speering and Bush refused to extend to Dr. Shawn Joseph.

A period of healing will be required as the situation hopefully stabilizes. During that time, the board needs to professionalize and make the written commitments that Mayor Briley has requested to codify how the board will conduct its business in the future.

Only then can the board and the community determine a path forward for the long term. In the meantime, it’s up to all of us to protect what’s left of the school board’s integrity and keep three corrupt board members from doing more damage.