Whites Creek wins 2018 Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Award


Governor Bill Haslam and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation recently announced Whites Creek High School as one of the winners of the 2018 Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Awards. The school is the winner for the Environmental Education and Outreach (Schools) category.

“These recipients have gone above and beyond what’s required of them, and I commend their passion and drive to make Tennessee a more sustainable and innovative state,” said Haslam in a release.

The Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Awards program recognizes exceptional voluntary actions that improve or protect our environment and natural resources with projects or initiatives not required by law or regulation. The winners were chosen from more than 75 entries by a panel of 18 professionals representing agricultural, conservation, forestry, environmental and academic professionals. The entries were judged based on three areas: on-the-ground achievement, innovation and public education.

Read Whites Creek’s entry below.

In 2017, the Whites Creek Community Club provided four acres of community garden
space to Whites Creek High School for the production of soybeans.

With $10,000 in grant funding from Ford Next Generation Learning and a Ford pickup truck, students utilized their soybean harvest to produce an alternative fuel source. In their biodiesel-fueled truck, they traveled to 14 different high schools and various colleges to showcase their work, demonstrating that high schoolers can be active contributors in the area of green energy and that alternatives to common fossil fuels can be implemented.

Ultimately students produced 60 gallons of soybean oil per acre. The project allowed
National Future Farmers of America (FFA) student members to be involved in Supervised
Agricultural Experience Programs for renewable energy and the promotion of
environmental advocacy to the National FFA organization at the regional, state and national level.

Whites Creek has and continues to teach others about making biodiesel. The Whites Creek Community Club has hosted student speakers to discuss biodiesel production and
students spoke at the 2017 Nashville Food Summit. Visiting teachers have also come from a number of states, including Hawaii, to see the program firsthand.

Click here to learn more about the Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Awards.

#MNPSVoices: Clemencia Donovan, NELB Language Coordinator


For 21 years Clemencia Donovan has been an integral part of the Metro Nashville Public Schools family. Those who interact with her are typically greeted with a warm smile and gentle spirit filled with positive energy and compassion for others.

“When I speak with someone on the phone, and when I can help them, I feel like I have accomplished something,” Donovan said. “That mother who feels better because of my help is an important accomplishment for me.”

As a Non-English Language Background (NELB) Language Coordinator, Donovan leads a team of 57 parent outreach translators and eight translation specialists as well as two interpreters/translators for special education. The group stays busy fielding between 400-450 requests a month and providing language assistance support services for a myriad of communication and marketing pieces for the district.

Within the district there are more than 144 different languages represented in Metro Schools with the largest being English, Spanish, Arabic, Kurdish, Somali, Burmese, Vietnamese, Nepali and Amharic. Donovan said she finds a special connection to her work through the families she serves.

“This is one of the most diverse communities I have ever lived in,” said Donovan, adding that she has also lived in cities in Florida, and in Cincinnati and St. Louis. “Nashville has so many people from all cultures, from everywhere. I believe everyone should learn another language and find a way to have cultural appreciation for others.”

A native of the Republic of Colombia, Donovan spent the early part of her career as a speech therapist working with students with learning disabilities and those who were deaf and hard-of-hearing. Her journey to the United States of America was an unexpected one that she said brought her here “for love” nearly 40 years ago. And it is love that keeps her here today – love for her daughter, grandson and MNPS co-workers.

“It has been great,” Donovan said of her time in the United States. “I have done things I never would have done and have met so many people who have become my friends.”

Her first job with MNPS was as a tutor translator working in classrooms across the district to support student achievement. She also provided support as an interpreter at parent meetings and translation for important documents. She served in this role for 14 years before moving into the Central Office, where for the last three years she has held the position of NELB Language Coordinator.

“I love my people; I love my translators,” she said. “If it were not for them I would not be here. They are so patient with me and they help me, teach me and support me.”

While Donovan admits that she is most knowledgeable in Spanish, she dabbles “fairly well” in English and has mastered the phrase “I’ll see you tomorrow” in Somali “because of its close relation to words used in the Spanish language.”

Her contributions over the years have made a difference in the growing department where, early on she worked with organizations such as the Tennessee Foreign Language to establish English classes for parents in several schools. In the future, she said she would like to see new programs implemented in the department to help move things even further along. For example, she said the development of a request system, providing pre-translated documents for teachers to access, and providing cultural sensitivity training in schools are just a few things that could better benefit the district. Another item on her wish list is having Parent Outreach Translators to provide expanded interpretation and translation services to families.


Metro Schools celebrates new class of retirees


On Tuesday, May 16, Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) celebrated more than 240 employees as they ended their chapter with MNPS and began a new one: retirement.

This year’s class of retirees represents more than 1.1 million hours of service to MNPS over the 20, 30 or 40+ years these employees served.

Director of Schools Dr. Shawn Joseph, alongside Board of Education members Anna Shepherd, chair, and Jill Speering, vice chair, and Deborah Story, executive officer of human resources and talent services, were on-hand to celebrate these dedicated employees and thank them for their service to our students, our schools and our district.

Dr. Joseph recognized the impact their work has made and the legacy that will remain after they leave, regardless of what area of the organization the employee served in.

“Thank you for staying up late to grade papers, thank you for getting up early to prepare your bus, thank you for helping that new student find his or her way to class or make sure they are not alone at lunch – no matter what your position, thank you for your service to this district,” Dr. Joseph said.

MNPS extends its deepest gratitude and genuine thanks to these employees. Thank you for dedicating so much of your life to MNPS and congratulations on your next chapter.

To Our Retirees:

As you end your career with Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools, we wish to extend our thanks for the work you have accomplished, the friendships you have shared and the dedication you have shown. We offer our best wishes as you begin a new chapter in your life.

Click here to see and download the retirees’ photos.

Dr. Joseph’s End of Year Message to Employees


Dear Metro Schools’ Employees,

What a year it has been and what an honor it has been to spend it with you.

Together this year, we have accomplished so much – taking great strides in improving literacy, ensuring equitable access to programs, providing more services and supports for all students, improving the quality of our Pre-K programs, transforming middle schools through STEAM-based teaching and learning and working to offer additional professional development, compensation and voice for our employees.

You have helped steer the focus back to our highest priority: our students. Every single one of us is focused on our students, their achievement and helping them define and achieve their limitless possibility.

And it shows.

  • Our students are not just Exceeding Great Expectations, they’re exceeding national averages. All students in grades 2-8 surpassed the national average for growth for reading and math, excluding fifth grade math. Our eighth graders (reading) and second graders (math), showed results better than the national average.
  • We know smart kids can live in any zip code – and this year, our increased focus on access to advanced academics led to more than 13,000 students taking advanced academic exams and certifications and more than 1,000 new students taking the ACT, with ACT scores improving among students who face traditional barriers to success.
  • We have placed an inherent focus on STEAM in middle school – an approach to teaching and learning that will help to develop soft skills employers are looking for: communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity, while providing students with an engaging classroom experience during a pivotal time in their educational journey.
  • We secured more than $15 million in grant funding to create five new STEAM magnet schools at the elementary level. Students can’t be what they can’t see and this grant will help Metro Schools expose our youngest learners to the possibilities the world presents.
  • Our community partners are standing with us and are equally as committed to a strong public education for every single student in Nashville. This year, with the partnership of the Nashville Public Education Foundation, Nashville committed to liberating all of our students and supporting our literacy work.

Student achievement is critical – and obviously what we strive for –  but none of this work would be possible without you and the tireless hours you pour into our students’ lives each and every day.

Every day, you model excellence for our students. Our students must overcome unique obstacles and you support them not just through the educational lessons, but also through the love, care and respect you show to each student. This district – and the work that we do – would not be possible without the work that you do in support of your colleagues and our students.

To those of you who will enjoy a few weeks away from work, I hope you can take this time for a rejuvenating break – one that is certainly well-deserved. Take time to reflect on the successes of this year as you begin to prepare for the next.

Your work and commitment to our district is the most important and valuable asset we have. All of the add-ons in the world can’t compare to the value you bring to our organization.

I thank each of you for your dedication to your craft and to our students’ futures, and look forward to picking right back up where we have left off this August.

Thank you for all you do,


#MNPSco2018: Lauren Burgess, MLK

Lauren Burgess

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” – Maya Angelou

This quote is used to describe Martin Luther King Jr. High School senior Lauren Burgess, recognized as a quiet and unassuming student who achieved many accomplishments in her time in Metro Schools. Burgess served as a member of the Beta Club and National Honor Society and was also a Student Ambassador, cheerleader, band member, MLK Freshman Orientation Leader and a participant in many Parent University student panels. The panels discussed the importance of having school counselors available to help students through difficult times. Burgess achieved these tasks all while dealing with her own difficult times—a close family member’s struggle with mental health. Burgess credits her unwavering focus on school during those difficult times to her former counselor, Seliene Bignall. While her journey to get to this point has not been an easy one, she has faced the challenges head-on and put forth the effort to finish strong.

“As Lauren transitions into her new life’s journey, her wings have been made strong by the lasting friendships, the lessons learned, the care given by many of her teachers and counselors, the opportunities afforded to her by Lake Providence Missionary Baptist Church, the everlasting love and support of her family and delight in the beauty of the butterfly,” an individual close to the student said.

Burgess will attend the University of Tennessee, Knoxville this fall, majoring in Sociology, with a concentration in Criminology and Criminal Justice.

“I want to make a difference in our society by helping to better understand crime as a social phenomenon – understanding the causes of crime, different types of crime, and their consequences to our society,” Burgess said.

Good luck and congratulations on all of your success!

#MNPSVoices: Annie Pugh, Senior Secretary


Ms. Annie Pugh, affectionately known around Metro Nashville Public Schools’ district as Ms. Annie, is a calm, quiet, gentle spirit. She consistently provides words of wisdom to those in need and is readily available to offer a big hug to anyone, when needed.

A native of Chattanooga Tennessee, Pugh came to Nashville in 1964 as a student at Tennessee State University to pursue a degree in early childhood education. She didn’t stay that course long adding that she “wanted to do something else.”

With a new focus in mind, she began to pursue a career in healthcare administration. Pugh worked at a local hospital in Nashville for 32 years with the first 15 years spent in a management position.

This particular field of work was rewarding to Pugh because in addition to her everyday duties, she was allowed to work alongside the hospital’s Information Technology department to help build a new patient care system that would eventually roll-out. “I did everything from budgets and payroll to even ordering hospital furniture,” she said.

After a long-standing career with the hospital, Pugh’s position was eliminated causing her transition to Metro Schools. Her 16-year career in MNPS started in the Human Resources department as a substitute employee. Shortly thereafter, she landed a job as a senior secretary to then-Director of Schools, Dr. Pedro Garcia. Today, Pugh is serving under her third director of schools, Dr. Shawn Joseph and supporting the executive office manager. Although she serves in the same position, her duties have somewhat shifted. Technology at MNPS has evolved over the years too, however, Pugh has adapted well to the new processes.

“Things have changed a lot since I started here,” she said. “I remember when I had to log in every single piece of mail that came into the office and file it as well. Having to learn a new computer system is totally different than when I started here years ago.”

She is grateful for the experiences and the skills she has developed over the years in her past role at the hospital, and believes it prepared her to carry out her day-to-day activities in her current role.

“I have become a ‘jack-of-all-trades’ and actually a master a few of them,” Pugh laughed.

One role Pugh has definitely mastered is that of grandparent. She and her college sweetheart-turned-husband of 50 years are proud to have six grandsons and one granddaughter.

When asked about her future goals she said, “I look forward to staying healthy and happy. As for my work goals, I just want to continue to support our director of schools, our children and parents to the best of my ability.”

Pugh has plans to retire but those plans are a little further down the road. As for now, she will continue serving the MNPS community and enjoying some of her favorite pastimes, like reading, quilting and cooking. Until then, she will continue to walk the halls of the Central Office ready and willing to offer a smile and a big hug.

“I don’t want to retire and go home and do nothing,” she said. “[But when I do] I look forward to retiring and traveling the world.”

#MNPSco2018: Cin Tuang, The Academy at Old Cockrill

Cin Tuang Picture

Cin Tuang moved from Burma to the United States seven years ago with his family, and since then he has exemplified exactly what the American dream is all about.

As an English Language Learner, Tuang has worked tirelessly during his time in MNPS to improve his skills in reading and writing and has excelled in the area of math, impressing many of his teachers.

“I met Cin Tuang in January,” said Judith Meeker, one of Tuang’s teachers. “He had just begun at The Academy at Old Cockrill and was a hard-working English Language student with a great sense of humor. I watched him complete class after class. Soon, it looked like Cin would be able to finish and make the May graduation.”

Meeker credits Tuang’s challenging personal experiences as the reason for his persistent and hard-working spirit.

“[At the age of eight], he and his brother stayed in Burma while his parents went on to Kuala Lumpur to work and save money to get the family to America,” said Meeker. “Cin worked at a mechanic shop cleaning up while his little brother sat outside waiting for his shift to over. They lived nearby in a cabin. A kind customer followed them home and gave them a couch to sleep on. When his parents earned enough money, they contacted relatives to bring the children to Kuala Lumpur and then on to America.”

Tuang has also dealt with personal challenges since moving to the United States. His mother has been battling lymphoma and has frequently been in and out of the hospital. He takes turns with his father and brother sleeping at the hospital, and when his mother is home he stays up late caring for her.

Today, May 22, Tuang will graduate from The Academy at Old Cockrill. He plans to attend Nashville State where he will be studying mechatronics.

Congratulations to this inspiring student on achieving his dreams!

#MNPSco2018: Dr. Joseph’s letter to the Class of 2018


I look forward to this season every year.

This is the epitome of what all of us at Metro Nashville Public Schools work for – seeing you, our students, walk across that stage. A powerful symbol of one chapter ending – and yet your life is just beginning.

While we work hard to support you, we know that you are the ones who put in 13 years of hard and intentional work to make it to this moment. I know it was not always easy.  You have demonstrated perseverance, scholarship, and a passion for life to make it to this special moment.

With your diploma in hand, you are one step closer to becoming who you are meant to be – a teacher, a doctor, a business leader, a scientist, an artist, an electrician, or anything you want to be – and it is my hope we have given you the tools you need to find success down whatever path you choose to take. Life is about service and sharing your talents with the world. Tap into your innate possibilities. If you love what you are doing, you will always have success.

Before you go, don’t forget to thank those who helped you get to this moment. I’ve been fortunate enough to have many great experiences in my life because I had access to a great education and great teachers who gave me a chance. Metro Schools focuses on those same values. During your time at MNPS, your teachers have loved you into greatness which you will appreciate more and more with each passing year.

I believe in you and your limitless futures, and I know our staff believes in you, too. I hope that the lessons you’ve learned and the relationships you’ve developed during your time at MNPS will carry on with you through each chapter of your own life’s story.

Congratulations on this incredible milestone – this truly is only just the beginning.

Best of luck,
Dr. Joseph

#MNPSco2018: Metro Schools student wins National Merit scholarship


Congratulations to Ramey Hulse, a senior at Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet High School, for receiving a corporate-sponsored National Merit Scholarship.

Hulse is one of more than 1,000 winners of National Merit Scholarships financed by corporations, company foundations and other business organizations. Corporate sponsors provide scholarships to students who are children of their employees, residents of communities the company serves or who plan to pursue college majors or careers the sponsor wishes to encourage.

Most of these awards are renewable for up to four years of college undergraduate study and provide annual stipends that range from $500 and $10,000 annually.

Hulse received the National Merit James E. Casey Scholarship, which is funded by the UPS Foundation. She plans to study archaeology in college.

Congratulations on this impressive achievement!

#MNPSVoices: Shelley Archuleta Smith, Assistant Principal

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As the school year comes to a close, educators across the nation are being recognized for their outstanding work over this year. Metro Nashville Public Schools is proud to have many employees who are being honored with awards and accolades for their challenging work. One of these exceptional individuals is Shelley Archuleta Smith, assistant principal at Andrew Jackson Elementary.

Smith was recently named 2017-2018 National Outstanding Assistant Principal by the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP). This national award recognizes the outstanding leadership of assistant principals at the elementary and middle school level. Smith is the first assistant principal in Tennessee to ever receive this award.

“It is an honor to receive this recognition for the state of Tennessee,” Smith said. “This would not have been possible without the guidance and support from my colleagues, teachers, students, parents and my family.”

Smith is 22-year veteran of MNPS joining the team as an English Language (EL) teacher at Cameron Middle School. Since that time, she has held a variety of positions including EL specialist, elementary English Language Development (ELD) curriculum coordinator and literacy coach. In 2015, she transitioned into administration as an assistant principal at Glenview Elementary before connecting with Andrew Jackson Elementary in her current role.

For many, receiving an award like this often sparks career reflection, and Smith has pinpointed her “defining moment” so far.

“I realized that by working as an administrator I have the opportunity to impact more than just my individual classroom,” she said. “My philosophy on what makes a school successful is, as an administrator, you need to be an instructional leader. You are there to provide resources for the teachers so they are successful which in turn benefits the students. As the school leader, I want to provide leadership opportunities for teachers and students.”

Smith has had a long career working in various roles as an educator. Throughout those years, there is one thing that has remained the same: she loves being involved in students’ lives.

“My favorite part of the job is building relationships with the students and the teachers,” Smith said. “I enjoy getting to know them as individuals and finding ways to help them be successful in all aspects of their lives.”

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