Metro Schools sets a detailed schedule to develop and implement a plan to improve priority schools

Two months ago, Director of Metro Schools Dr. Jesse Register set the bold goal of having no priority schools in the district by 2017. After wrapping up the final priority school faculty and parent meetings this week, today the district released a detailed timeline outlining how it will develop and implement the plan to reach that goal. “The initial community input we have received has been enlightening,” said Dr. Register. “We keep a close watch on what’s happening in our schools, but having these conversations with teachers and parents helped us gain a better understanding of the challenges and needs in our lowest-performing schools, as well as what they are doing well that could benefit from more time or support. We are now ready to start making plans for each of these schools.”

The district will move forward with its response to the priority schools list on a two-part timeline, which balances the need for more community input on complex decisions with the urgent need to make improvements that will support student achievement this school year. The two-part timeline will include:

  • Near-term actions to be taken by January of 2015
  • Long-term decisions to be made by May 2015 after extensive community engagement

Immediate actions include developing individual turnaround plans for each of the 13 priority schools. Part of every school’s turnaround plan will be staffing decisions to ensure great leaders and teachers are in place. This will be supported by the MNPS Turnaround Corps, which has already attracted more than 125 applications in 10 days from within the district and around the country.

Other near-term actions include conceptualizing a transportation plan to provide equitable school choice in East Nashville, as well as making final decisions on the previously-planned charter conversions with KIPP and the Achievement School District. The KIPP conversion was approved by the Board of Education in June, and an announcement of the selected elementary school will come no later than Dec. 1. The Achievement School District is expected to decide its middle school for charter conversion in early December, as well.

“There are steps we can take right now to improve schools this year and next,” said Dr. Register. “Not everything can be done that quickly. Some decisions will take a lot more thought and planning, but these are things we can do immediately to give students better opportunities.”

Because of the great ambition in the goal of having no priority schools by 2017, schools will be expected to meet academic benchmarks each year to ensure they are on track for rapid improvement. These benchmarks will also be decided by January 2015.

In planning for the future, district officials will thoroughly engage the community through a process developed in part by the community itself. Long-term decisions will be made after the district completes this engagement and receives input. These decisions include:

  • future school closures, consolidations and repurposing;
  • an overall plan for East Nashville feeder patterns, school themes, academic programming and grade configurations;
  • fully developing and implementing a transportation plan for equitable choice in East Nashville; and
  • possible conversions and other decisive actions to be taken when schools are not meeting necessary benchmarks

“These are ideas that need to be considered and carefully planned with the community starting right now,” Dr. Register said. “What we plan for this year could set the stage for decades of school and community growth. That means we have to be deliberate and very careful in making these decisions.”

At the center of this community engagement process will be the East Nashville community advisory committee, made up of 23 parents, students, teachers and community leaders chosen by their peers.

“It only makes sense to have the advisory committee play a central role in developing these long-term plans,” Dr. Register said. “To be successful, we need to give East Nashville families high-quality school choices that meet their children’s needs and that fit the vision they have for their growing community.”

The advisory committee members are:

  • Tonya Alexander, Kirkpatrick Elementary School Teacher
  • Evelyn Jasper, Kirkpatrick Elementary School Parent
  • Carrie Padgett, Inglewood Elementary School Teacher
  • Jai Sanders, Inglewood Elementary School Parent
  • Jarred Amato, Jere Baxter Middle Prep Teacher
  • Lenita Stevenson, Jere Baxter Middle Prep Parent
  • Julie Hasfjord, Bailey STEM Magnet Middle Prep Teacher
  • Angelica Cooks-Lucas, Bailey STEM Magnet Middle Prep Parent
  • Miriam Harrington, Jere Baxter Middle Prep Principal
  • Kim Robinson, Charter School Representative
  • Amy Phelan, Maplewood Cluster Parent Appointed by Board Member Jill Speering
  • Jayla Roberts, Maplewood Cluster Student Appointed by Board Member Jill Speering
  • Ashley Baxter, Stratford Cluster Parent Appointed by Board Member Elissa Kim
  • Cherish Woodard, Stratford Cluster Student Appointed by Board Member Elissa Kim
  • Anita Drake, Community Member Appointed by Council Member Peter Westerholm
  • Anthony Davis, Council Member and Self-appointed Community Member
  • Rose Covington, Community Member Appointed by Council Member Scott Davis
  • Bill McKee, Community Member Appointed by Council Member Karen Bennett
  • John Haubenreich, East Nashville United Representative
  • Kathryn Rizzone, East Nashville Believes Representative
  • John Gregory, Community PTO Representative
  • Jeremy Ganzevoort, Maplewood Cluster Parent Advisory Council Chair
  • Jarius Edens, Stratford Cluster Parent Advisory Council Chair

The advisory committee meets for the first time on Wednesday, Nov. 12. One of its first agenda items will be to help the district develop a community engagement process that extends through May 2015 to gather additional input on the long-term decisions.