Listen In

The conversation continues

 
Dr. Adrienne Battle listens to feedback from staff, families and the community at a Listen In session in May 2019.

Dr. Adrienne Battle listens to feedback from staff, families and the community at a Listen In session in May 2019.


Our district is diverse, but we share the same goal: to deliver a great public education to every student, every day.   

During her first six weeks, Dr. Adrienne Battle, interim director, traveled the district to listen to students, families, employees and community members share their ideas about anything and everything related to Metro Nashville Public Schools.  

Over six meetings, more than 300 people showed up to talk with Dr. Battle.  They shared stories of success and opportunity. They shared their honest experiences and constructive criticism on how the district can do better for its employees, students and families and build a stronger Metro Nashville Public Schools. 

Our students were at the core of every meeting. Each session was hosted by our 2019 Principals of the Year: Dr. James Witty, Dr. Kisha Cox and Dr. Anne-Marie Gleason. Tina Atkinson, one of our art teachers at Percy Priest Elementary School, sketched the conversation during four meetings. 

In those six meetings, several clear themes emerged. Many of these were already areas of focus and opportunities for the district. Others provided a fresh perspective. The seven key themes, and some examples for each – are summarized below.  

 

What we heard

The more these themes came up, the larger the circles are below.

Click below to learn more about each one.

Family & Community Engagement

What you told us:
  • Families want to be more involved – and they’re looking at MNPS for ways to create those pathways.
  • We need better communication and engagement with our non-English language background families.
  • School communities need help to develop and grow active parent-teacher organizations.
  • Our families want more positive contacts with their schools and teachers.

Updates, as of July 2019:

Funding

What you told us:
  • Our employees – teachers, principals and support staff – deserve more pay.
  • Our students deserve access to relevant, high quality learning materials.
  • Our families and staff want the district to advocate for a fully funded school district.

Updates, as of July 2019:
  • What we advocated for with the 2019-20 fiscal year budget never changed. Read more about the budget here. Advocacy for next year starts now. Families, staff and MNPS supports can contact their Metro Council representative and their state representatives to advocate for more funding.
  • This year, all eligible employees received a 3% salary structure increase, and next year, based on a recommendation from Mayor Briley, the Board of Education anticipates a future budget amendment will fund a second 3% salary increase. If that budget amendment is approved as expected later this calendar year, it would mean that the second salary increase would take effect on Jan. 1, 2020. A 3% increase in July 2019, coupled with a 3% increase in January 2020, would mean an annualized earning increase of 4.5%.
  • This year’s budget also funded more anchor texts for our elementary school teachers to read aloud to their classes. Previously, we purchased one anchor text for three teachers to share. This year, we purchased one anchor text for each elementary school teacher.
  • This year’s budget did not allow for students to have their own copy of history and world languages texts, but we will continue to advocate for appropriate funding around textbook needs. All students will have their own unique online access to history and world language textbooks, however.
  • The district compensation study began in spring 2019. The human resources department has continued to evaluate compensation for MNPS employees, while assessing local and national competitiveness. The study includes a multi-year, multi-faceted approach that seeks to improve overall compensation for MNPS employees. Next steps include a working session with the Board of Education to review the proposed compensation study.

Organizational Improvements

What you told us:
  • Families are grateful when school breaks align with surrounding counties, but parents would like to see the calendar published earlier. Historically, it publishes a few months prior to the start of the school year.
  • Teachers and school-based employees want to see district leadership in the building and in their classrooms more often. They believe it would give district leaders a better understanding of the changing needs of our students and employees.
  • Staff, families and the community are looking for transparent and synchronized communications about day-to-day operations and district initiatives. We heard reports of contradicting information from different departments and a need for consistency and follow-through.
  • The application and hiring process is overwhelming and time-consuming for those interested in working for MNPS.
  • We have examples of great instruction, eager students and dedicated employees in all of our schools. Our constituents are looking to us to celebrate these everyday wins.
  • Our families and employees alike want to know more about our discipline policy: how it will be used and how our employees will be trained.

Updates, as of July 2019:
  • We know how important it is to plan ahead and, with your feedback in mind, the district is going to revisit how early we publish the academic calendar. In additon, we've built monthly reminders/key date reminders into our editorial calendar across all MNPS channels so you’ll see them on Facebook and Twitter. The district calendar is always available to view and download here. The calendar is developed by a cross-functional calendar committee and is then approved by the Board of Education. The district is currently looking into changing this timeline so that the calendar can be released earlier.
  • The MNPS school support leadership team has restructured to a tier model (elementary, middle, high) and has already adopted a set of management expectations that will keep leaders in the schools more often.
  • The human resources department has also been restructured to improve efficiency throughout the entire hiring process. HR personnel has been assigned to tiers (elementary, middle and high) and the entire department is working on improving internal communications for our internal stakeholders.
  • Our discipline policy remains a key focus heading into the 2019-20 school year. For the first year, we’ve convened a tier-level task-force. This cross-functional group will meet throughout the school year to adjust the discipline policy. Our discipline philosphy is one that views discipline as the opportunity to intervene, teach, and shape the future of the student. Discipline should be administered with equity, dignity, freedom from bias and respect for all parties. You can read more in our Student Parent Handbook, available to read and download here.
  • We know great things are happening in our schools every day, and we will continue to celebrate these everyday wins of our students and employees on Facebook, Twitter and right here on MNPS.org.

Programs

What you told us:
  • Staff and families want to know the district’s plan for literacy training and support for students who need it most.
  • Families want more options with our specialty schools, advanced academic offerings and other programming options in every cluster and every quadrant.
  • After-care programs are helpful, but how can we lower costs for families and for staff whose children are enrolled?
  • Points of pride included: our English learner program, our Pre-K program and our exceptional education services.

Updates, as of July 2019:
  • We know our students each have a unique set of needs and the teaching and learning in our classrooms must reflect that. Our Multi-Tiered Systems of Support encourages targeted supports for students, including literacy supports. Learn more about MTSS here.
  • We heard your concerns about program access, equity and how difficult it can be to understand the school choice options. That's why we’re currently working on a program inventory in each area of our district to make improved decisions around options and specialty programs. Through MNPS next, we will continue discussing program access and quality.
  • In addition, later this fall we will start piloting Smart Choice, a platform used by many school districts across the country that will simplify the school choice process for parents. We expect to roll this program out in January 2020, and parents will be able to preview Smart Choice at the School Choice Festival on Oct. 15.
  • MNPS offers waivers and hardships for eligible families for non-MNPS before-care and after-care programs.
  • In addition, MNPS is always looking for better ways to support our employees. We are currently in the beginning stages of exploring an employee childcare benefit. MNPS staff will receive a survey with more details in September.

Staff

What you told us:
  • Our employees want a robust training program, with ample opportunity to attend professional development sessions and opportunities to follow up. Across the board, employees referenced the Office of English Learners' professional development series as a model and a need for more mathematics resources and professional development.
  • Employees also want their time protected – fewer mandatory meetings and more time in their buildings, collaborating with their teams.
  • Employees expressed concern about retention, turnover, culture and climate. This impacts all areas of the district: teachers, nurses, substitutes, transportation and support staff. We heard first-hand stories that have long circulated in the district and around the nation: how teachers are doubling up classes and bus drivers are doubling up routes as a result of vacancies, absences and a lack of substitutes. We know this can negatively impact the district’s culture and climate.
  • Teachers, in particular, want to know more about our interventions model -- the Multi-Tiered Systems of Support -- and how to put it in practice in the classroom.
  • Points of pride shared throughout all session include: our cross-agency mental and health providers, our network of invested community partners and the Listen In outreach/feedback sessions, among other things.

Updates, as of July 2019
  • We heard our employees consistently say: we need fewer meetings. With that in mind, we took a thoughtful approach to building this year’s meeting calendar. We continue to cut the number of meetings, which will translate into more time in the classrooms and schools.
  • We know that improving our internal culture will take time, but we are committed to this area of focus for our district.
  • Starting this year, MNPS strengthened professional development for MTSS supports with literacy and mathematics. Schools also have the options to purchase and participate in training for specific intervention programs from the list of approved interventions. Employees can learn more here. Schools have also selected MTSS academic and behavior co-leads, who will participate in district-wide sessions throughout the year.

Students

What you told us:
  • Consistently, families, staff and the community emphasized that our students’ education and overall well-being must remain at the center of all decision-making.
  • Families want to see more things to prepare students for whatever comes after graduation, such as more career and technical classes and earlier exposure to two-year and four-year college programs.
  • We know our students bring life’s experiences with them when they walk into our building, and we heard the need for more wrap-around services, social work services and personalized supports to help them stay focused on school.

Updates, as of July 2019
  • We heard your concerns about program access, equity and how difficult it can be to understand the school choice options. That's why we’re currently working on a program inventory in each area of our district to help students and families make improved decisions around their options and specialty programs. This will benefit all students as they prepare for college and career. Using the program inventory, we can then offer a better look at our career and technical programming options, as well as programs that prepare students for 2- or 4-year college options.
  • We are committed to fostering cross-agency partnerships focused on mental and health supports for our students. In addition, we are maintaining and expanding our Community Achieves work, including district-led sites, Family Resources Centers and Community in Schools sites. Learn more about our Community Achieves work here.

Transportation, Meals and Other Services

What you told us:
  • Some of our bus routes start earlier than our transportation switchboard staffed. This leaves families without anyone to call in the morning with urgent questions.
  • Our families are looking for more communication about transportation for things like late buses and alternate routes, in addition to a more consistent pick-up and drop-off schedule.
  • As of right now, families can only pay for school meals by sending a check or cash to school. Families want a way to load their students’ meal account online instead of sending money with their student.

Updates, as of July 2019
  • We heard you! This year, we’re opening our transportation switchboards before the first route starts. You can reach us as early as 5:30 a.m. using this number: (615) 259-INFO.
  • This year, we've also launched our online payment portal for meals. Parents can now pay for their student's lunch meal balance with a few clicks online or on their phone. You can learn more and setup your account here.

Meet Our Artist

Tina Atkinson, an art teacher at Percy Priest Elementary School, live-sketched the conversations for four of our six meetings.

Atkinson has been an elementary visual arts teacher in MNPS since 1998. She holds a bachelor’s degree in art education, a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction and is a National Board Certified teacher in early/middle childhood visual art. At Percy Priest Elementary School, she developed an innovative, and highly successful visual art program that keeps parents, students and community stakeholders connected to the learning taking place in the art classroom. Her student’s art work can be seen in the hallways, in the community at various local art shows and on www.artsonia.com in PPE’s online art gallery, which has consistently ranked in the top five schools in the state of Tennessee. 

Atkinson’s art was a live, visual translation of what the Listen In conversations were about. They represent the themes, passion and love for our schools and students. 

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The employee session of the Listen In meeting at Virtual School on May 13, as sketched by Julie Atkinson.

The employee session of the Listen In meeting at Virtual School on May 13, as sketched by Julie Atkinson.

The community session of the Listen In meeting at Virtual School on May 13, as sketched by Julie Atkinson.

The community session of the Listen In meeting at Virtual School on May 13, as sketched by Julie Atkinson.

The employee session of the Listen In meeting at the Southeast Community Center on May 30, as sketched by Julie Atkinson.

The employee session of the Listen In meeting at the Southeast Community Center on May 30, as sketched by Julie Atkinson.

The employee session of the Listen In meeting at the Southeast Community Center on May 30, as sketched by Julie Atkinson.

The employee session of the Listen In meeting at the Southeast Community Center on May 30, as sketched by Julie Atkinson.


Meeting Live Streams

Our Listen In meetings are live streamed on Facebook. You can watch previous meetings below.

May 2019: