Blog Archives

Honoring Metro Schools’ long-time employees for their service

A luncheon was recently held at the Martin Professional Development Center to honor Metro Schools employees who had served the district for 30 and 40 years.

Click here to see a list of the employees who were honored.

View photos from the event below:

Hundreds of Metro Schools students chosen to perform in Nashville’s Nutcracker



The Nashville Ballet’s Nashville’s Nutcracker performance features hundreds of Metro Schools students this year, including dancers from from the Hispanic Family Foundation’s Baila dance studio – Valor Academy’s Estefanía Mota-Contreras, as a Frontier Soldier; Valor Academy’s Milvia Erazo- Gonzàlez, as a Russian Nesting Doll; Sylvan Park Elementary’s Sandra Grissom, as a Frontier Soldier; Paragon Mills Elementary’s Genesis Majano, as a Frontier Soldier; and Valor Academy’s Ashley Martinez, as a Frontier Soldier.


You may notice a few hundred familiar faces in this year’s Nashville’s Nutcracker by the Nashville Ballet.

ballet2The two-hour performance that opens at the 1897 Centennial Exposition in Nashville and weaves together Music City’s historic landmarks and characters with one of the world’s most popular ballets is going on now through Dec. 23 at TPAC’s Jackson Hall.

The performance features more than 125 dancers from the Davidson County area and another 125 from elsewhere in Middle Tennessee and Kentucky to make up the largest youth cast the Nashville Ballet has had to date. The youth cast also features dancers from the Hispanic Family Foundation’s Baila studio.

“I never thought my daughter would be on a stage such as TPAC. Besides, she was very shy, and since she entered Baila she has become more confident. This has even helped her do better in her studies. I also think it´s very beautiful to see her relate to girls of other cultures each time she goes to the Nutcracker practices. I am very appreciative of the Hispanic Family Foundation and the Nashville Ballet school,” said Yorlenis González, mother of Milvia. Milvia who attends Valor Academy and stars in the performance as a Russian nesting doll.

Youth cast members perform alongside all 47 members of Nashville Ballet’s professional company and second company, according to the Nashville Ballet.

“Nashville’s Nutcracker simply wouldn’t be complete without the youth cast,” said Paul Vasterling, Nashville Ballet Artistic Director & CEO, in a news release. “They bring a new, vibrant energy to each performance that’s contagious for both the performers and audience members. Giving the youth in our community an opportunity to perform in this holiday tradition adds to the magic of the season for them — and for us.”

For tickets and more about Nashville’s Nutcracker, visit the Nashville Ballet’s website.


Academy Sports + Outdoors and the Tennessee Titans donate bikes, promote fitness at Inglewood Elementary


At Inglewood Elementary, Academy Sports + Outdoors and Tennessee Titans’ players, cheerleaders, and mascot donated bikes and helmets to 70 deserving students on Dec. 13 as part of Academy’s annual bike donation program.


“This is our fifteenth year holding bike donation events,” said Rick Burleson, regional marketing specialist for Academy Sports + Outdoors. Burleson said the company increased its giving and wanted to give back to the community this year by more than doubling the number of bikes usually given.

“You think about the joy it brings to the kids,” said Alison McArthur, Metro Schools Community Achieves coordinator, about the bike donations.

A school assembly featured a Fuel Up to Play 60 presentation with Titans’ mascot T-RAC that promoted the importance of eating right and getting regular exercise.

Tennessee Titans players Ben Jones, Dennis Kelly and Harry Douglas spoke to students about focusing in school, having respect for yourself and others, and not being afraid to ask for help when you need it.

First and second grade students also participated in special fitness activity stations with Tennessee Titans players Kevin Byard, Brian Orakpo, and David Bass, who also joined in on the fun.

See highlights from the event below:

The work to eliminate book deserts in Nashville gets statewide attention

jarredwithlogo-234x300A Metro Schools educator was recently featured in Tennessee Classroom Chronicles for his work to promote literacy and access to books.

Jarred Amato is an English teacher who was honored in 2015 as a Metro Schools Blue Ribbon Teacher. He spoke about the progress of Project LIT Community, which strives to eliminate book deserts by retrofitting newsstands with mini-libraries and distributing them in neighborhoods where bookstores and libraries are not available.

Inspired by an article he read in the The Atlantic, Amato said he realized that Nashville was no exception to the nationwide problem of book deserts. Asked about the progress of Project LIT Community, Amato shared that his students have led efforts at Maplewood High School to collect more than 7,400 books by Thanksgiving:

… One highlight was when we realized that we had reached our ambitious goal of collecting 5,000 books by Thanksgiving. The class erupted in cheers. We were so proud to accomplish something that many didn’t believe was possible. As of November 30, we have received 7,426 books and are confident that we will reach our next goal of 10,000 books by winter break.

I’m also really proud of the fact that nearly 60 students, teachers, parents and community members came together for six hours on a Saturday last month to count and sort thousands of books, and utilize their art skills to convert a dozen USA Today newsstands into beautiful little libraries.

Finally, I would just say that because of our project, every day has become a celebration of reading. How cool is it that high school students get excited to open a box of books

Amato said the project engaged his students to address a real need in their community and helped them gain real-world skills that prepare them for college and career success, such as problem-solving, teamwork, logistics, social responsibility, graphic design, fundraising, and engineering.

“It is my kind and empathetic students who give me hope for the future, and I knew that they would take this idea and run with it,” Amato told the publication.


Learn more about Project Lit Community below:

Metro Schools chosen for nationwide English language learner professional development pilot

MsConfer's classroom2

Pictured: A Tusculum Elementary School EL Teacher goes over site words with students. 

Metro Schools is one of six large urban districts in the U.S. chosen to implement the first course of a new professional development resource for English language learner (ELL) educators by the Council of Great City Schools. The results of the pilot will be used to create courses nationally for educators who teach english language learners.

The pilot began in October and will be complete by the end of December, according to Kevin Stacy, Metro Schools executive director of the Office of English Learners.

“I am honored that the Council of Great City Schools has seen our hard work and has asked us to be a part of this professional development trial. This learning is an extension of the work we have begun to ensure our ELs are challenged with complex and compelling text,” Stacy said.

Metro Schools was chosen because it is familiar with the work of Lily Wong Fillmore, Jeff Zwiers and other nationally-recognized experts who are involved in content development of English language learner resources, according to the Council of Great City Schools. The second course, to be launched nationally in January 2017, is related to academic conversations in mathematics as part of an enhancement to initiatives already being implemented by Metro Schools ELL coaches.

“MNPS teachers and staff are playing a critical role in shaping valuable, job-embedded professional development that will be implemented by urban colleagues nationwide,” said Debra Hopkins, ELL Project Manager for the Council of Great City Schools. “Their specific, actionable feedback related to experiences delivering the trial course has already been rolled into a new and improved iteration of the course, which will be rolled out nationally in 2017.”

PHOTOS: CMA Foundation continues visionary commitment to music education in Metro Schools with $1 million grant for 2017

Kelsea Ballerini And CMA Foundation Announcement

Left to right: Debbie Linn of Music Makes Us, Shannon Hunt, CEO of the Nashville Public Education Foundation, Nola Jones of Music Makes Us, Laurie Schell of Music Makes Us, Robert Swope, District 4 Council member, Nashville Mayor Megan Barry, Singer-songwriter Kelsea Ballerini, Metro Schools Chief of Staff Jana Carlisle, Anna Shepherd, board of education chair, Sarah Trahern, CEO of the Country Music Association, Ron Samuels of the CMA Foundation, Bill Simmons, CMA board member. The CMA Foundation announced a $1 million donation to the Metro Schools Music Makes Us program at Oliver Middle School on Dec. 6 in Nashville. Photo credit: Terry Wyatt for Getty Images.

Country star Kelsea Ballerini and the CMA Foundation celebrated a long-standing commitment to Metro Nashville Public Schools Tuesday, awarding a $1 million grant to support initiatives aimed at strengthening music education programs and music teacher support in classrooms across the city. This donation brings CMA’s support of music teachers and education in Nashville to $11 million since 2006 making it one of the largest local, private investments in the district’s public school system.

Funds for the 2017 grant were raised through CMA’s annual CMA Music Festival, held in Nashville each June. In 2017, the CMA Foundation has earmarked a record $3.1 million to 44 in- and after-school music education programs across the country, bringing the Foundation’s total contributions to date to $17.5 million (including the Metro grant).

“I think it is so important to give kids the opportunity to learn what they are passionate about,” said Ballerini. “When I was in middle and high school I took as many chorus and theater classes as I could, and I use the tools I learned then in my career today!”

See a clip of Ballerini’s performance below:

The extraordinary public/private partnership received additional awareness today as part of a Metro initiative to help non-music education and civic leaders better understand the role of music education in school improvement efforts. Groundbreaking research, funded in part by CMA, demonstrated sustained participation in music correlates directly with improved student academic performance. “CMA’s long-standing commitment to Nashville’s public schools is a shining example of the power of private/public partnerships. Their level of commitment in terms of total dollars and tenure of support is tremendous,” said Nashville Mayor Megan Barry. “My hope is that their leadership inspires others to step forward in a similar fashion.”


“As we think about a more aggressive effort to strengthen and improve our public schools, music education is a central ingredient – not just because we are Music City, but because the research shows it can have a lasting impact on student success,” said Director of Schools Dr. Shawn Joseph. “I am so proud of what the District has already done to build one of the strongest music education programs in the country, but even more optimistic about what the future will bring with partners like CMA.”

In partnership with MNPS/Music Makes Us and the Nashville Public Education Foundation, the CMA Foundation grant goes directly toward providing instruments and teacher support impacting more than 89,000 local students. The partnership between MNPS, the CMA Foundation (CMAF), and the Nashville Public Education Foundation (NPEF) is one of the district’s longest-standing and most significant public/private ventures. The generous support for music education and long-time commitment to the City of Nashville has been an essential ingredient to getting the music education program to the nationally-recognized prominence it has today. Part of CMA’s ongoing mission is funding teacher development in addition to support for music instruments and equipment.

Since 2006, CMA and the CMA Foundation have understood that, for Nashville to continue being Music City, Metro Schools require and deserve robust music education programs. CMA and the CMA Foundation have invested $11 million in 11 years in an unprecedented public/private partnership to strengthen and improve music education in Nashville schools.

Previous grants were used to stabilize programs by purchasing instruments and equipment, and to create a repair shop for the district. This year’s $1 million gift continues that tradition, while also providing substantial resources for educators based on feedback from our district’s music teachers.

“When this program began, it was important to fund instruments, which hadn’t been purchased in decades,” said Joe Galante, Chairman of the CMA Foundation and a member of the CMA Board of Directors. “Now that we have instruments in every Metro school, the CMA Foundation is expanding our focus to include teachers by providing recognition of their work, which is critical in developing and maintaining strong, sustainable music programs.”

The 2017 grant will go beyond instrument support and will benefit music educators throughout Davidson County. Supported teacher initiatives include:

  1. Side by Side – customized coaching by experts for all music teachers with 32-56 hours per teacher, with select schools also receiving support for subsidized private lessons.
  2. CMA Music Teachers of Excellence – a competitive teacher recognition program with a grant award of $2,500 for up to 20 teachers.

The District’s Prelude study, completed in 2013, indicated students who participate in music and the arts are more likely to graduate, have better attendance rates, and earn higher GPAs than those not enrolled in music programs. The CMA Foundation recognizes the benefits of music education in keeping kids engaged and the importance of supporting local music educators.

Students from the Wind Ensemble at Oliver Middle School performed during the presentation. In addition, several other city leaders were on hand to celebrate the news of this year’s grant including School Board Chair Anna Shepherd, District 4 Council member Robert Swope, and various other music industry and civic leaders.

See more photos from the event below:

Kelsea Ballerini And CMA Foundation Announcement

Singer-songwriter Kelsea Ballerini performs a song for the Oliver Middle School wind ensemble during the CMA Foundation’s announcement of a $1 million donation to the Metro Schools Music Makes Us program at Oliver Middle School on Dec. 6 in Nashville. Photo credit: Terry Wyatt for Getty Images

Kelsea Ballerini And CMA Foundation Announcement

Singer-songwriter Kelsea Ballerini attends the CMA Foundation’s announcement of a $1 million donation to the Metro Schools Music Makes Us program at Oliver Middle School on Dec. 6 in Nashville. Photo credit: Terry Wyatt for Getty Images

Kelsea Ballerini And CMA Foundation Announcement

Kelsea Ballerini celebrates with the Oliver Middle School wind ensemble after announcing a $1 million grant to support music education in Metro Schools on behalf of the CMA Foundation on Dec. 6 in Nashville. Photo credit: Terry Wyatt for Getty Images

Eighth graders can jumpstart high school and college studies by applying to SSMV

Holding a real human brain is something Carlos never thought he would ever do, but a STEM program at Vanderbilt helps the sophomore at Hume-Fogg Magnet High School explore his interests.

The School for Science and Math at Vanderbilt (SSMV) begins taking applications on Monday, January 2.  A joint venture between the Vanderbilt Center for Science Outreach (CSO) and Metro Schools, the four-year high school program is held on Vanderbilt’s campus and is led by a team of Ph.D. scientist instructors. Metro Schools eighth graders or eighth graders who plan on attending a Metro Schools high school are eligible to apply.

“The SSMV is the hardest, craziest, most wonderful thing that has happened to me,” Carlos said. “Thanks to the SSMV, I have gotten to do things that I would have never even dreamed of doing, at least I don’t think I would ever dream of holding a brain. It’s the highlight of my week, and I always look forward to it because I know that I’ll get to expand my knowledge in the craziest, most unimaginable ways possible.”

When he’s not reading scientific articles on self-healing clothes and robotic stingrays, Carlos spends his time volunteering with adult English language learners and teaching basic math and computer skills.

For more information on applying to SSMV, here are some helpful links:

Contact SSMV Admissions at 615-322-7132 for any questions.

Metro Schools students document Nashville civil rights history


Hume-Fogg High School student Clarkston Ellerby interviews Ernest “Rip” Patton, a Freedom Rider and a participant in the Nashville sit-ins.


A new podcast series pairs Metro Schools students with those who have had a front seat to iconic moments in Nashville’s civil rights history.

“My Witness” is a collaboration with One Voice Nashville facilitated by storyteller and narrative journalist Mary Margaret Randall. The 20-minute podcasts feature intergenerational interviews pairing seven Metro Schools high school students with Nashville civil rights activists. In one additional podcast, artist Walter Hood discusses his inspirations and hopes for how people will experience Nashville’s new Civil Rights-inspired artwork, Witness Walls.

“The podcasts, along with a blog and educational curriculum, are designed to support Witness Walls, currently under construction next to the Historic Metro Courthouse and expected to be completed in February 2017,” says Anne-Leslie Owens, public art project coordinator for the Metro Nashville Arts Commission.

Date: November 7

Title: “The Most Successful Civil Rights Movement”

Description: Westley Dunn (Hillsboro High School) interviews Linda T. Wynn

Date: November 14

Title: “Teachers, True Role Models”

Description: Isabella Killius (Hume-Fogg High School) interviews Ola Hudson

Date: November 21

Title: “The Reluctant Desegregation of Nashville Public Schools”

Description: Cassius Smith (Overton High School) interviews Canzada Hawkins


Date: November 28

Title: “On the Job Training at the Lunch Counter Sit-Ins”

Description: Doneisha Wells (Maplewood High School) interviews Frankie Henry

Date: January 2

Title: Sit-Ins and Freedom Rides Reveal the Power of Nonviolence

Description: Clarkston Ellerby (Hume-Fogg High School) interviews Rip Patton

Date: January 9

Title: “If You Can’t Tell Them Why You Are Marching, Get Out of the Line”

Description: Gabby Depalo (Hume-Fogg High School) interviews Vencen Horsley

Date: January 16

Title: “Passing on the Lessons of Civil Rights Activism”

Description: Danny Harp (Nashville Big Picture High School) interviews Howard Gentry

Date: January 23

Title:  “How Artists Contribute to Conversations about Civil Rights”

Description: Genevieve Jean-Pierre (MLK Jr. High School) interviews Walter Hood

Metro Schools tackles dyslexia with tech


Clara Thorsen holds her iPad loaded with the Easy Spelling Aid tool, which helps her write. Clara has dyslexia and she is one of many Metro Schools students who utilize special tech tools in the classroom to help her with learning.

Eakin Elementary fourth grader Clara Thorsen likes to write stories using apps like Cowriter, Easy Spelling Aid and Snaptype Pro – tools that help her work around dyslexia.

“Having a child who is very gifted, but struggles with Cat and The Hat when her friends are reading Harry Potter – having dyslexia is a social issue. It’s a self esteem issue,” said Anna Thosen, Clara’s mother.

Nationally, one in five children have dyslexia – a reading disorder that is classified as a learning disability in which someone has difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, letters and other symbols.

“Not every student who has a learning disability has dyslexia,” said Debra McAdams, executive director of exceptional education in Metro Schools. “In addition, not every child who has dyslexia has an individualized education plan (IEP).”

At Eakin Elementary School, technology bridges the gap and shows how Metro teachers are skilled and adaptable to diverse and changing student needs. Clara was diagnosed with dyslexia in second grade.

“In Metro Nashville Public Schools, we do an exceptional  job of providing any number of supports to students who have a need,” said Drinkwine.

As an Encore student who craves reading, Clara takes tools to class that help her keep pace with her peers, with supports like extra time on tests and having tests read out loud to her.

“There’s a perception that children with dyslexia have low IQs, and that is actually reverse. Children with dyslexia tend to have average or high IQs,” Thorsen said, explaining that children with dyslexia may be put in a remedial reading program, but also need to be challenged with high ideas and bigger concepts to supplement a broad verbal vocabulary.

Finding tech tools Clara can use at home is also an essential part of her learning as well, Thorsen said. Learning Ally and Bookshare are both nonprofits providing dyslexia support through audiobooks & parent support services. “These programs from our school are free, and I want to get the word out. It’s a huge asset for all children,” said Thorsen.

Each school has different levels of technology use, according to Krista Bolen, who is part of the assistive technology team in Metro Schools.

“The assistive technologies used by students with dyslexia vary, but many times include digital accessible books and use of spell check and word prediction. All of these can be provided on multiple platforms, many times with existing technology available in the school,” Bolen said. “When technology use is integrated into day-to-day teaching, it makes it more seamless for students with disabilities using assistive technology.”


Simon Youth Foundation names Metro Schools principal as National Administrator of the Year

AOTY Billy Fellman with T. Clark%2c JMD & D. Simon.jpg

Left to right: Simon Youth Foundation Vice President of Programs Tim Clark, Simon Youth Foundation CEO Dr. J. Michael Durnil, Academy of Hickory Hollow Principal Billy Fellman, who was named Simon Youth Foundation National Administrator of the Year and Simon Youth Foundation Chairman of the Board Deborah Simon.

Simon Youth Foundation has named Metro Schools’ Academy at Hickory Hollow principal Billy Fellman as its 2016 National Administrator of the Year.

Fellman was honored on Sun., Nov 13 at an awards ceremony in Indianapolis, receiving a crystal plaque and a check for $1,500.

Simon Youth Foundation gives the award annually to a high-performing educator in its network of 29 academies across the country. These academies are built primarily in Simon shopping malls and help students who were once at-risk of dropping out of high school return and get their diploma, according to the foundation.

Fellman has served as principal at Simon Youth Academy at Hickory Hollow since 2012, but has spent his entire career serving students in the greater Nashville area.

“Since joining the staff at Hickory Hollow, he has produced more than 1,000 graduates, and collaborates with his students’ support network to ensure that those graduates have clear post-secondary plans,” a press release announcing the award said.

Principal Fellman holds a bachelor’s degree in special education from Tennessee State University, and a master’s in education leadership from Trevecca Nazarene University.

“Billy is a rare administrator whose enthusiasm is contagious. He is able to motivate his staff and students to achieve some incredible results,” Simon Youth Foundation CEO Dr. J. Michael Durnil said. “Even among out extremely talented network of administrators around the country, his passion for his students stands out.’”

For more about the Simon Youth Foundation, visit

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