A Message from the New Chair of the Board Anna Shepherd
As the Metropolitan Board of Education, we speak as a unified body. As the Board Chair and on behalf of the Board, I would like to say that we support Dr. Joseph and his leadership team, and we stand behind the hiring decisions he has made.
When we began the search for a new director of schools, we sought a change agent who moves with a great sense of urgency to address the systemic issues in our schools. The community search committee led by Mayor Megan Barry and the Nashville Public Education Foundation told us at the beginning that it would take an investment from our district to land that person. We had to be competitive, they said, in order to attract great talent.
That’s how all great organizational change starts. They take investments of both dollars and sweat equity. If we want a world-class school system for Nashville, we must give both.
When we voted as a Board to approve Dr. Joseph’s contract, we agreed that his salary and benefits were appropriate for the magnitude of the work ahead of him. When Dr. Joseph hired his new executive cabinet members, we applauded his choices as the best people for the job. They have the right experience and knowledge, and they came with his strongest endorsement. Their talents, too, are worth the investment.
We must be competitive in pay and benefits if we want to have the very best in Nashville. That goes for district executives, teachers and everyone else who serves our children.
Now the hard work has begun. My fellow Board members and I have been working closely with Dr. Joseph and his team to address one of the most fundamental issues facing our district: its culture.
As Dr. Joseph has spoken about before, the work to turnaround district culture will not be easy, and it begins with us as district leaders. It is, however, enlightening and gratifying. Our work with the Arbinger Institute has been transformative for us as a Board, and I cannot wait to see what it does when spread to the rest of the district.
Earlier this month, some of us spent time in an intensive retreat with Arbinger to learn how we can begin that cultural turnaround. It’s our second such retreat, with a third planned for later this fall. They have brought us closer together as a leadership team and resulted in tangible benefits. So far, we have:
- agreed on protocols for Board conduct and Board-staff relations;
- developed a clear workflow and accountability system for tracking and resolving Board questions of administration;
- agreed that we as a Board will speak with one voice through the chair or vice chair on any issues decided or to be decided by the Board; and
- agreed on a new committee structure and process.
Our next steps are to focus on Dr. Joseph’s evaluation tool and criteria and to decide how to evaluate our own progress and collaboration.
Dr. Joseph’s next steps are to continue his analysis of our district and begin the strategic planning process. That is, perhaps, one of the most difficult jobs in all of Nashville. With 88,000 students, 11,000 employees and a budget approaching $1 billion, there is very little room for error.
But there is a reason we hired Dr. Joseph. It’s because we believe in him, his team and their work. We have joined hands with them to dig into the work, and we know the rest of Nashville is ready to do the same.
When we are able to improve services to our students and families and achievement begins to climb, it will have been worth the investment.
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