Pearl-Cohn student earns full Belmont scholarship with winning essay


Lucki Price, a graduate from Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School, earned a full scholarship to Belmont University by writing an essay about her experiences in Girls Inc.

Girls Inc. is a national program that aims to inspire all girls to be strong, smart and bold by equipping them with the skills to navigate gender, economic and social barriers. The YWCA of Nashville and Middle Tennessee supports the program in several Metro Schools.

The scholarship was awarded to Lucki by Be About Change, a nonprofit committed to providing higher education scholarships to students from low-income households.

Read Lucki’s award-winning essay:

“There will be pizza,” are the words that stole my attention. A room with food and beverages, a couple of girls, and a strange woman who would ask a million questions that I would give a simple lie to is what I imagined Girls Inc. would be. In the beginning, I was only there simply for a meal that I knew I wouldn’t get otherwise. One could never be certain of tomorrow when living in a small duplex with three adults, three delinquents, and one monthly income. Life seemed like a game that we’d always lose. My mom felt this defeat the most, and every time I looked in her eyes I could feel her constant agony, and hear her desperate cry and it killed me. They say as a child you shouldn’t worry too much about “grown up problems,” yet I could never stop worrying. I always wanted to help even if it meant sacrificing something that I wanted. I would wait a months’ time for forty-five minutes of small talk, free food, and the key ingredients towards a better life. In Girls Inc. I began to notice that most of the girls had part time jobs, and were working when they didn’t have school. This made me realize that I was also able to get a job and contribute to myself and my family, even at a young age of fifteen. So I applied to Kroger, and because of what I learned in Girls Inc. I quickly obtained an interview and in no time, I became a working girl! Joining Girls Inc. and obtaining a job are some of the best choices I’ve made in my life so far. Although it is rough going to school full time and working I wouldn’t regret my decision to work because it pushed me to work even harder. “What doesn’t kill makes you stronger” is a quote that I live by every day. To me this quote is all about persevering even through your darkest days, and with the financial literacy I gained from Girls Inc., I am equipped with the strength to persevere, and thrive through every hardship and challenge that’s is thrown at me.

Over the years I have seen myself mature into a responsible young woman. I have overcome shyness, and low-self-esteem while battling health issues. Who would ever think that “tiny Lucki” would speak in front of roughly 1500 people? Never in a million years did I think I would have such an enlightening opportunity, but I guess dreams do come true, and now public speaking is a reality for me as well as a great skill and asset that I am proud to have. Not only have I overcome shyness, I have also become more focused and aware of my grades and how they have a huge role in life after high school. Prior to Girls. Inc., I was enrolled in all honors classes, but I wasn’t always attentive to how each assignment played a role in my overall grade, GPA, and college. It wasn’t until my Girls Inc. instructor showed me and my classmates the average annual income of people with some high school experience, only a high school diploma, and etc., when I realized that living paycheck to paycheck is not the life I want for myself and for my future family. After that when my junior year began, I came to school every day dedicated and focused to learn.

For each semester I had a goal, and when I reached one goal I’d replace that goal with a new and improved higher standard. I maintained A’s and B’s until I finally reached my goal and became a straight A student. Along with achieving better grades, I also started to join school clubs, sports, and activities. I became an Academies of Nashville Ambassador, a peer mentor, a student leader, I participated in mock trial, I joined the soccer team, I ran for SGA, I am in Girls Inc., and I am enrolled in AP and Honor classes, all while maintaining my part time job where I worked at least twenty-eight hours a week. In addition to that, I also started taking advantage of internships opportunities, and academy based summer camps. I am two-year Warner Music Nashville intern, I was an intern for the academy award winning actress Reese Witherspoon in her new store Draper James, and I attended Grammy Camp. Having said that, my AP and Honor courses, my grades, and my extracurricular activities are the source that eliminated my low-self-esteem. Being a part of all these tremendous things have made me realize my worth and my potential, and I am overjoyed, and honored to be equipped such great strength and power to work hard and be where I want to be. One of things I value most in life is having the ability to make a choice, and being able to be in control of what route I choose in life. Thanks to Girls Inc., I have the knowledge that is preparing me for the rest of my life. With that said, Girls Inc. is an organization that builds our community by equipping young woman with the passion, drive, and tools in effort to reform society.

Metro Schools hosts early childhood education summit

Metro Schools brought together early childhood educators, community partners and businesses to connect and collaborate at MNPS’ Excellence in Early Education Summit 2017 on June 21.

Attendees learned about MNPS’ pre-K program developments throughout this past year, and the program’s work towards building quality pre-K across Davidson County.

The summit also highlighted the milestones met through the federal Preschool Development Grant – Expansion (PDG-E), which has provided MNPS the opportunity to expand access to high quality pre-school programs by adding new classrooms and strengthening the quality of existing classrooms.

Dr. Shawn Joseph and Mayor Megan Barry provided remarks during the summit focused on the importance of building a strong learning foundation to support and develop Nashville’s youngest learners. Dr. Elizabeth Alves, assistant commissioner for the Office of Early Learning and Literacy at the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE), provided the keynote and discussed the importance of quality pre-K programs throughout Tennessee.

MNPS Pre-K community partners participated in a round table discussion, including: Conexión Américas, Global Education Center, KinderCare, Nashville Public Library, MNPS Pre-K Comprehensive Services, MNPS Plant the Seed, MNPS Pre-K Coaching and Instructional Support, The Headstart Program (Metro Action Commission), United Way of Metropolitan Nashville and Vanderbilt Peabody Research Institute. During their presentations, they provided attendees with an overview of their organization, and discussed their work through the PDG-E grant and the impact they have had on Metro’s pre-K program and students.

This is the second Excellence in Early Education Summit hosted by Metro Schools. The event was sponsored by the Tennessee Department of Education with Preschool Development Grant-Expansion Funds.

Check out photos from the event:

Bottom row of photos courtesy of the Mayor’s Office and @MayorMeganBarry.

Metro Schools music teacher receives Yale Distinguished Music Educator Award

Rita Black

Rita Black, a music teacher at Eakin Elementary School, is one of 10 music teachers across the country to receive the 2017 Yale Distinguished Music Educator Award.

Awardees were identified and nominated in partnership with the National Association for Music Education and the VH1 Save the Music Foundation. They were selected in recognition of their innovative approaches to music education, their dedication to their urban communities and their desire to make a substantial difference in the lives of students and families.

“The Yale School of Music is continuing its tradition of recognizing exceptional music teachers working in schools across the United States,” YSM Associate Dean Michael Yaffe said in a press release. “This year, we’re focusing specifically on the leadership of educators in city schools, whose work is made more critical by a growing disparity in opportunities for music making in America’s cities.”

Black holds a bachelor’s degree in music education from the University of Central Oklahoma and has taught general music and choir for 13 years. In addition to being a music teacher, she also mentors pre-service teachers, directs theater and choir and presents workshops for educators.

She is a member of the National Association for Music Education and the American Orff-Schulwerk Association, having served as a committee co-chair in 2014. She is an adviser for music curriculum and serves as a peer reviewer for the Tennessee Fine Arts Growth Measures System. She is also a 2016 Teaching Fellow at Tennessee’s State Collaborative on Reforming Education, where she focused on education policy issues, and was named a Music Teacher of Excellence in 2016 by the Nashville Public Education Foundation and the Country Music Association Foundation.

Recipients of the 2017 Yale Distinguished Music Educator Awards were invited to New Haven to attend this year’s Symposium on Music in Schools, which focused on the role that music-making plays in America’s city schools.

Congratulations to Ms. Black on this impressive accomplishment!

Quality pre-K is vital to student success


On June 21, Metro Schools will host its second annual Excellence in Early Education Summit to highlight best practices in early childhood education, and to give participants access to resources to enhance pre-K educational programs. Mayor Megan Barry, a long-time supporter of early education, and Director of Schools Dr. Shawn Joseph will speak at the event.

In the last two years under Dr. Joseph’s leadership, the district has increased its investment in pre-K programs. Research affirms that pre-K educational programs put students on the path to school success. Youngsters who are enrolled in pre-K programs are nearly four times more likely to do better in school when they have a solid educational foundation heading into kindergarten. Currently, MNPS serves more than 3,000 pre-K students with many of the available pre-K seats for economically disadvantaged children. MNPS’s pre-K program gives children of all income levels access to high-quality, project- and play-based instruction with highly trained early childhood education teachers.

Thanks to a federal preschool development grant, the district added 440 new seats to the pre-K program last year. The grant also funds the work of family involvement specialists who are dedicated to strengthening school-to-home communication. The family involvement specialists link parents to valuable district and community resources, teach workshops about kindergarten readiness and have developed a host of resources – all available online – to help parents support the academic readiness and success of their young children during critical formative years.

Check out these free resources:

Keep informed about new resources for parents and families at, and learn more by following MNPS on social media @MNPSFamilies and @MetroSchools.


Metro Schools teacher featured by Tennessee Music Education Association

Franklin Willis

Franklin Willis, a music teacher at Andrew Jackson Elementary School, was chosen as the first Teacher Spotlight by the Tennessee Music Education Association (TMEA) General Music Division.

Willis, a graduate of Nashville School of the Arts, holds degrees from the University of Memphis and Belmont University. He has been selected for numerous teaching awards including Teacher of the Year (Madison Middle School, 2015-16), Blue Ribbon Teacher Award and the Country Music Association Music Teacher of Excellence Award.

Willis’ student ensembles have consistently earned superior ratings at state and national festivals. His students have performed at venues throughout Middle Tennessee including the Grand Ole Opry, the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Cumberland Park, Gaylord Convention Center, Opry Mills Mall, retirement homes, churches and various schools.

Check out his interview here.

Two Metro Schools students win National Merit scholarships

Graduation_Social-Media_2017_FacebookAd-2Congratulations are in order! Jeremiah Ginder, Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet High School, and Joseph Henry, Hillsboro High School, are the recipients of National Merit college-sponsored scholarships.

Ginder and Henry were two of more than 3,200 winners of National Merit Scholarships financed by U.S. colleges and universities. Officials of each sponsor college select their scholarship winners from the finalists in the 2017 National Merit Scholarship Program who plan to attend their institution.

The awards provide between $500 and $2,000 annually for up to four years of undergraduate study at the institution financing the scholarship.

Ginder received his scholarship from Tennessee Tech University where he will study physics. Henry’s scholarship is from the University of Chicago, where he plans to major in computer engineering.

Congratulations to both of these students on this impressive achievement!


McMurray Middle Prep breaks ground on renovation project


McMurray Middle Prep hosted a groundbreaking ceremony on June 14 to celebrate the kickoff of a $20.75 million renovation project that will transform the 53-year-old school into a modern learning facility.

The school will receive a full facility renovation, providing new electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems along with new finishes such as paint, cabinetry, flooring, ceilings and more.

All classrooms will be built to meet modern standards and will include new furniture and technology. The renovation includes new instructional spaces, including a new library with study rooms and a maker’s space to support science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEAM) instruction. Students will also enjoy an enclosed courtyard and an Internet cafe.

Check out photos from the event:

Metro Schools teacher named finalist for 2017-18 Tennessee Teacher of the Year


Cicely Woodard

Cicley Woodard, West End Middle Prep teacher and 2017-2018 Tennessee Teacher of the Year Finalist

Congratulations to West End Middle Prep teacher Cicely Woodard for being named one of nine finalists by the Tennessee Department of Education for the 2017-18 Tennessee Teacher of the Year award.

The finalists represent each Center of Regional Excellence (CORE) area in the state, with three finalists in each Grand Division (west, middle, and east). Grand Division winners and the Teacher of the Year will be selected from this group and announced during an honorary banquet this fall.

“These teachers are our students’ heroes,” Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said in a news release. “Our educators have a direct, positive influence on students every day. And, because of educators like these nine finalists, Tennessee’s future is bright.”

The final winner will represent Tennessee in the National Teacher of the Year competition and serve as an ambassador for education in the state throughout the year. To qualify, candidates must have been teaching full-time for at least three years, have a track record of exceptional gains in student learning and be effective school and community leaders.

The nine finalists for 2017-18 Tennessee Teacher of the Year are:

West Tennessee

CORE Region





Stephanie Rice

Crosswind Elementary

Collierville Schools


Mandy Fraley

Northeast Middle

Jackson-Madison County Schools


Carol Nanney

McKenzie Middle

McKenzie Special School District

Middle Tennessee

CORE Region




Mid Cumberland

Cicely Woodard

West End Middle

Metro Nashville Public Schools

South Central

Chelle Daniels

West Middle

Tullahoma City Schools

Upper Cumberland

Rebecca Ryan

White County High

White County Schools

East Tennessee

CORE Region





Kristin Burrus

Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences

Hamilton County Department of Education

East Tennessee

Karen Latus

Bearden High

Knox County Schools

First Tennessee

Nancy Miles

South Side Elementary

Johnson City Schools

These finalists will have the opportunity to serve on Commissioner McQueen’s Teacher Advisory Council for duration of the 2017-18 school year. This council acts as a working group of expert teachers to provide feedback and inform the work of the department throughout the school year. Additionally, to provide continuity and leadership, the three Grand Division winners will continue their term during the 2018-19 school year.


Metro Schools’ community school work receives two national awards in DC


Metro Schools was recently honored in Washington, D.C. by the Coalition for Community Schools, receiving two national awards for its community schools work over the past five years. The Community School model is a national movement that aligns community resources with school-level supports to remove barriers to learning and helps students thrive in school and in life.

Metro Schools’ Community Achieves initiative received the Community Schools 2017 Award for Excellence, and Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School was awarded the Individual Community School Award.

Community Achieves and Pearl-Cohn staff attended the Coalition for Community Schools Award Symposium in Washington, D.C. on June 5 to accept the awards and participate in panels with school leaders from across the country.

“This award honors all of the principals, site managers, partners and families in MNPS that work together toward positive outcomes for students. It is a testament to what can happen when communities get behind schools,” said Alison McArthur, Community Achieves coordinator. Currently, there are 24 Community Achieves schools in Metro Schools.

The group also spent time on Capitol Hill, meeting with staff from the offices of Senator Lamar Alexander, Senator Bob Corker and Representative Jim Cooper to discuss the importance of continuing support for community schools.

The Community School model helps schools improve, according to Dr. Tony Majors, executive officer of support services. “Schools face the unbelievable challenge of improving the academic performance of their students, regardless of the students personal, socio-economic or environmental circumstances.  The Community School model provides the structure, process and support that schools and students need in order to address many of the non-academic factors that do ultimately impact academic performance and school climate.  These include health, attendance, discipline, culture and others,” Majors said.

“Community schools promote healthy communities by first acknowledging the areas of concern and then by prioritizing the schools’ efforts, followed by engaging the community and community agencies to assist the school in their efforts,” Majors added. “By honestly assessing the need and collaboratively working with stakeholders, the model does promote awareness and prioritization around the development of social and emotionally supportive schools and collaboration to restore communities through shared responsibility.”

“Metro Schools has made crucial investments in resources and coordinators for Community Achieves to sustain the important work of supporting all learners in the district,” said Dr. Shawn Joseph, director of schools.

Congratulations to Community Achieves and Pearl-Cohn for receiving this impressive national recognition for their work!

Check out photos from the trip:


Pre-K summer activity guides now available


Your child has finished pre-K and is on the way to kindergarten. Many parents find it hard to believe that their children have reached this milestone. Our children grow up right before our eyes, and the time we spend with them is precious.

The activities in this guide are designed for you and your child to do together this summer. They can help turn the special time you share into delightful educational experiences. Research clearly shows the importance of parents’ involvement in their children’s learning. Our children need to know that we think school and learning are important, and one of the best ways to show this is to enjoy learning things together.

Click here to download the summer activity guide.

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