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Dr. Joseph: “Metro Schools gets a ‘B’ on the start of schools”

Director points to successes and areas for improvement after first full day of school

With nearly 88,000 students coming back to school for a new year, the Metro Schools leadership team is closely examining what went well and what areas need greater support. In a detailed memo to principals and other school leaders, Director of Schools Dr. Shawn Joseph acknowledges the concerns seen and heard in schools and spells out ways they are being addressed.

“We feel like it’s been a good start to the year, but overall I give us a grade of B,” said Dr. Joseph. “We had some great successes, largely due to our phenomenal principals and school staff. The schools look great, the staff are friendly and easy to access and everyone is working with a positive attitude. But there are some issues we saw in multiple areas of the district that we know we need to fix. The next steps are for my team to find resolutions, and quickly, so that principals can worry more about instruction and less about late buses and enrollment questions.”

Leading up to the first day, Dr. Joseph tasked central office leadership with visiting every school between August 3 and August 12 to observe schools, talk to principals and teachers and see what supports need to be given. At the end of each day during this period, the central office team gathers together to go over the issues found and make a plan for solutions.

Some of the issues found in the first two days of school include:

  • Transportation
    Several families in Metro Schools were not assigned school bus routes over the summer as they should have been. This is likely due to issues related to moving to a new student data system, as some student addresses were not transferred in the move. Enrollment staff members are working right now to ensure every student has a valid address, and transportation staff members are working to get them into the routing software as quickly as possible.This issue is leading to some delays in school bus service and, in some cases, families not having a route at all. District officials acknowledge this is a problem, and are working to solve it for all families. In the meantime, families can check the Find Your Bus Stop tool online to see if they have school bus information available. If they do not, they can contact the Family Information Center at 615-259-INFO (4636) or by email at to create a record of their individual issues.
  • Enrollment
    Families continue to enroll throughout the first day of school, and instructions for school staff about enrollment were not clear enough. This caused some confusion over who was responsible for enrollment and how it should be handled. There are also several students with information waiting to be entered into the new student data system, which came online July 11.Schools have now been given clear instructions on how to enroll students on the spot, without having to send them to an Enrollment Center, along with all necessary forms. Enrollment staff members are working to ensure proper entry of all students who have completed the enrollment process.
  • Family Information Center
    With increased phone call volume related to the start of schools, along with an antiquated phone system in the process of being replaced, the Family Information Center phone lines crashed for two hours on the first day of school, leaving many families with no answers to their questions. The system remains at capacity, leading to long wait times and, in some cases, disconnected calls.The phone system is being replaced with a more modern system, though that will not be finished until early fall. Call volume is expected to return to normal levels in the second week of school, which should allow for faster answer times and quicker resolutions. However, other solutions are also under discussion to provide more immediate relief.

Other common issues seen in schools involve access to the new student data system, custodial services and interpretation for families who do not speak English. They are detailed in a memo to school leaders. You can also view the observation checklist used by district leadership during school visits.

“Like we’ve been saying, we have high expectations of ourselves, and we need to live up to and exceed them,” said Dr. Joseph. “That includes giving schools everything they need to serve students. Right now, we’re falling a little short. We need to acknowledge it, fix it and move forward in the school year.

“It was a busy summer for us, with a brand new leadership team coming on board in July, hiring nearly 30 principals, changing systems and processes – we did a lot. But we can always do more, and the lessons we learned this week will make us stronger this year and next August when we open the doors on 2017.”

Hey, Vanderbilt: Thanks for the 3,800 computers!

On hand for the presentation of the computers were, from left, Kyle Dufresne, Dell; Joe Steele, Dell; John Lutz, Vanderbilt; John Manning, Jr., Ph.D., MBA, Vanderbilt; Tim Burleson, Dell; Ellen Lehman, the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee; Keith Durbin, director of Information Technology for Metro Government; Laura Hansen, Metro Nashville Public Schools; Andy Aylor, Metro Government; Zach Moore, Metro Government; and John Williams, Metro Nashville Public Schools. (photo by Anthony Scarlati)

On hand for the presentation of the computers were, from left, Kyle Dufresne, Dell; Joe Steele, Dell; John Lutz, Vanderbilt; John Manning, Jr., Ph.D., MBA, Vanderbilt; Tim Burleson, Dell; Ellen Lehman, the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee; Keith Durbin, director of Information Technology for Metro Government; Laura Hansen, Metro Nashville Public Schools; Andy Aylor, Metro Government; Zach Moore, Metro Government; and John Williams, Metro Nashville Public Schools. (photo by Anthony Scarlati)

Well, the folks up at Vanderbilt University Medical Center have outdone themselves with a very generous donation of 3,800 computers. That’s enough computers for two high schools or 10 percent of our elementary school population. It really makes a difference for our families who may not have access to technology at home.

This comes on the heels of a major announcement from the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, which sponsored a digital inclusion initiative and managed the project with several community partners to coordinate refurbishing, imaging and handing out the computers to economically disadvantaged families from 18 Metro Schools.

The Community Foundation says there are about 54,600 Davidson County homes and about 44 percent of MNPS families who lack Internet access.

What a way to make a dent in that number, Vanderbilt! Thanks again!

Read more about VUMC’s donation here.

Fundraiser Alert: Save money and donate money to schools all at the same time.

How can you save money on your family budget and give back to a deserving Metro school? PENCIL Foundation has made it easy.

The answer (duh.) is a coupon book! Yeah, yeah, we know. You’ve seen the coupon books for sale at some schools. But this one is different. It’s a wholly original book produced by the PENCIL Foundation specifically for Metro Schools.

PENCIL Pocket Saver

Click here to buy one!

The new PENCIL Pocket $aver includes money-saving deals from merchants all across Nashville (see the list here), such as a free trial class at the Nashville Ballet School, a free doughnut at Fox’s Donut Den, a $5 discount at Applebee’s, and buy-one-get-one free deals on admissions to the Frist Center, Belmont Mansion and Vanderbilt women’s basketball games. There’s also a travel section with discounts for Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge!

So how is it different?

  1. Price – This book is just $10.
  2. Schools get to keep $7 of that $10 price. That’s a higher percentage than schools earn from almost all other fundraisers.

Sales continue through Sept. 21 at about 40 participating Metro schools (see the list here). 

Many thanks to the PENCIL Pocket $aver sponsors whose support helps us keep the price of the coupon books so low and earmark so much of the revenue for schools. Sponsors include HCA TriStar Health, Aegis Sciences Foundation, Creative Artists Agency, DK Brand Strategy, LP Building Products and the Ryman Hospitality Properties Foundation.

Because PENCIL is a nonprofit organization, the remaining $3 goes back into the community to support PENCIL programs such as LP PENCIL Box (our free school supply center for teachers) and free background checks for school volunteers, with a small portion used to pay for production costs.

If you prefer, you can also order your coupon book  at the secure PENCIL Pocket $aver page.

Remember: The Pocket $aver is a great way to help students, help schools, help PENCIL provide much-needed programs and help yourself enjoy some fantastic bargains. Thank you!

Donelson Middle Prep wins $1,000 shopping spree

Donelson Middle Prep hit the sweepstakes!

When Direct Auto & Life Insurance held a Back to School contest, a Hermitage woman won big – a gift card worth $1,000. But her prize came with a catch – she had to name a school that would win a prize, too. Only five schools across the U.S. won, including Donelson!

Ann Davids, Chief Marketing Officer for Direct Auto & Life Insurance, presents two $1,000 gift cards to Nereida Vargas (with her son, Kevin) and Donelson Middle Prep principal, Jennifer Rheineker.

Nereida Vargas was one of five people drawn for the $1,000 shopping spree from nearly 30,000 sweepstakes entries with Direct Insurance. Executive Principal Jennifer Rheinecker accepted the award on behalf of the school.

“For the fourth consecutive year Direct has provided nearly 14,000 free backpacks and donated $10,000 to local residents and schools,” said Ann Davids, CMO of Direct Auto & Life Insurance. “Serving local customers in the communities where we do business is very important to our company culture. Our community involvement and connection to our customers sets us apart.”

Thanks, Direct!

Click here for more information about the Back the School Campaign.

Nashville’s mayoral campaign leads to a donation for a Metro elementary school

Fall-Hamilton Elementary principal Mathew Portell is serious about making his school great - and parents will play a huge part!

Fall-Hamilton Elementary principal Mathew Portell is serious about making his school great – and parents will play a huge part!

At the tail end of the mayoral campaign – literally in the final hour – a ray of sunshine peeked out from the Fairgrounds Nashville… in the form of a donation for Fall-Hamilton Elementary!

Last May, the mayoral and Metro Council candidates took part in a fundraiser at the Fairgrounds called Kick Off & Corn Poll. The candidates and their supporters played games of corn hole featuring a picture of the mayoral candidates, and votes were cast by tossing bean bags. It was a fun and informal event during a long campaign, and the money raised is being put to very good use.

Tonight, the Fairgrounds presented Fall-Hamilton with a check for $4,068 at the school’s Family Barbeque. Principal Mathew Portell plans to put the money to great use jump starting the school’s brand new PTO.

“A school is only as strong as its community and parents. We are excited that The Fairgrounds Nashville has chosen Fall-Hamilton Enhanced Option School as one of their partners!” said Portell. “The $4000 donation to the school is going to be used to start our newly founded PTO! Our parents are amazing and their voice is very important to us.”

Fall-Hamilton Enhanced Optional School is located on Wedgewood Avenue near the Fairgrounds Nashville. It’s a professional and caring environment that serves the educational needs of the students and parents. It benefits from partners in the local community like the Fairgrounds. Fall-Hamilton offers a learning experience that is unique to Nashville. Students participate in self-selected enrichment clubs every Friday. As a choice school, students are accepted from anywhere in the district. 51% of the student body attends by choice, not by school zone.

Way to go, Fall-Hamilton, and thank you to the Fairgrounds Nashville!

Three Metro Schools named SCORE Prize finalists for 2015


SCORE (the State Collaborative on Reforming Education) has released its latest list of SCORE Prize finalists. This year there are THREE (3!) Metro schools on the list, including TWO (2!) repeats:

New Vision is the new addition to this list, and KIPP and MLK both appeared on the list last year. The SCORE Prize recognizes the schools and school districts that are leaders in student learning, particularly those “significant and sustained academic achievement.”

From the SCORE website:

  • KIPP Academy Nashville is a public charter school serving roughly 350 students in grades 5-8, and the school was a SCORE Prize finalist in 2014. KIPP students outperform the state average in reading, math, and science, and the school has shown strong growth in math and science over the past three years.
  • MLK Magnet, a middle and high school, serves approximately 800 students in grades 9-12 in Nashville. Nearly 100 percent of the high school students score proficient or advanced on end-of-course exams in English II, Algebra I and II and Biology. MLK boasts a tremendous college-going culture – students have an average ACT score of 25.8 over three years, 100 percent of students graduate high school within four years, and more than 90 percent go on to college.
  • New Vision Academy is a public charter school in Nashville serving more than 175 students in grades 5-8. New Vision has experienced strong gains over the past three years across reading, math, and science. Student scores in science are more than 10 points above the state average.

SCORE Prize winners in each school category will each receive $10,000. The overall winner will receive $25,000. Winners will be announced October 26 at Schermerhorn Symphony Center. The event will be hosted by SCORE Chairman and former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and will highlight the outstanding work of the finalists. Musician and actor Charles Esten, who stars as Deacon in ABC’s Nashville, will provide a special musical performance.




Metro Schools’ First Choice Festival – Sept. 20 at the Music City Center

No matter what your child needs or where you live, there is a public school that is right for you. Metro schools offer children advanced academics, personalized learning, music, arts, access to technology and much, much more!

First Choice Festival Flyer

Spanish Arabic Kurdish
Somali Burmese Amharic

The First Choice Festival brings together more than 160 public schools in one room so you can see which ones fit your family’s needs. Admission is free and includes the Family Fun Zone with kids activities, puppet shows and a bounce house!

Free parking is available at the Tennessee Titans’ Nissan Stadium, and free rides are available on any MTA bus the day of the event. Just tell the driver you’re going to the First Chocie Festival.

Whether you’re planning for next year, the year after or a few years from now, the First Choice Festival is the perfect opportunity to start looking at schools. Talk to principals, meet teachers and schedule tours all in one afternoon.


Neighborhood schools, magnet schools and more: see for yourself what Nashville’s public schools have to offer!

We need every family in Metro Schools to fill out these two forms.

Last year we asked you to fill out two forms and send them back to school so we could know more about your family. It was a big success! We learned a lot and got the information we needed.

Well… now it’s a new year, and we need to do it again.

On August 25, your child will bring home two forms.
They must be filled out and returned by August 26.

What are these forms?
One form tells us who your child is, where you live and how to get in touch with you. The other helps us know how many of our families are economically disadvantaged.

Why do you need to know that?
There are two big reasons:

  1. Money – Without this information, your school could lose money. Certain kinds of federal and state money – including money used to buy technology – are partially dependent on the number of students who are economically disadvantaged. We need to know how many there are so our schools can get all of the resources they need.
  2. Accountability – We are required by the state to track the academic performance of economically disadvantaged students. Failure to complete this form could have an effect on your school’s accountability status.

What will the survey ask?
The survey will ask some very simple questions:

  1. Name
  2. Address
  3. Phone number
  4. Number of people in your household
  5. A range of income for your household

That’s private. What if I don’t want to share it with you?
We completely understand the concern. But there are two really important things to know about your personal information:

  1. We will never share it with anyone. It will always stay private. We promise. Your answers are put together with everyone else’s and reported as a percentage, with no names or identifying information attached.
  2. We don’t want to know how much money you make. The form only asks for your range of income. We don’t want to know an exact number.
Take a look at this year's Household Information Survey

Take a look at this year’s Household Information Survey

Is there another way for you to get this information?
We used to collect this information with the Application for Free and Reduced Price Meals. If you’ve never filled out that application, then you have probably never seen this form. Because we now offer free meals to every student without an application, we need a new method to keep track of our economically disadvantaged families. This is it.

What if I’m not economically disadvantaged or don’t want your free lunch? Do I still have to fill this out?
Yes. We need this form from everyone. It’s not a requirement to get free breakfast and lunch. Everyone gets that already. But we need you to fill out the form so we can get the funding we need to serve all students. If you don’t fill it out, we won’t know if you’re economically disadvantaged or not, and we do not want to miss even a single family.

What is the student information form, and why do I have to fill it out?
There are thousands of Metro families with out of date contact information in our system. This summer, we mailed home nearly 44,000 report cards. Thousands were sent back to us with incorrect addresses. We clearly need a better way to keep this information up to date, and this is it. We need to be able to reach you if there is urgent news from your school, there is some sort of emergency, if school is closed due to weather or any number of good reasons.

How do I fill it out?
The form shows your child’s information as it is in our system right now, including address and phone number. Please hand write corrections directly on this form and return it to school by the next day (Wednesday, August 26). We will take your corrections and note them in our system. If there are no corrections needed, please write “NO CORRECTIONS” and send it back to school by the next day.

Again, these forms will be sent home when August 25 and needs to be returned August 26. They will also be available at our Enrollment Centers.

Thank you in advance for helping us capture this vital information about our families!

Maplewood High School Opens New Automotive Training Center in cooperation with Bridgestone Americas and Firestone Complete Auto Care

Center is both a classroom workspace and operational automotive service center

Today Metro Schools leadership joined Mayor Karl Dean and Bridgestone Americas CEO and President Gary Garfield to cut the ribbon on the new Maplewood High School Automotive Training Center, the latest public-private collaboration to benefit Nashville education. Maplewood High School’s Automotive Training Center will give students hands-on experience working with top-of-the-line automotive technology and help them learn the business practices necessary to run a retail store.

“This is a significant moment in the history of Maplewood High School, and we are grateful for the investment in our students,” said Interim Director of Schools Chris Henson. “Maplewood and the Academies of Nashville are taking another major step in giving students multiple paths to success after graduation.”

“Maplewood High School’s Automotive Training Center is another example of how Maplewood continues to generate positive effects on Nashville and its educational system,” said Gary Garfield, CEO and President of Bridgestone Americas, Inc. “As a leader in innovation, this training center reflects our commitment to educating the next generation of automotive and retail professionals, using the latest technology, operational procedures and business practices offered in our Firestone Complete Auto Care tire and automotive service centers.”

The training center is the heart of the Automotive Technology pathway in the Maplewood Academy of Entrepreneurship and Innovation. It represents a contribution from Bridgestone Americas, which includes volunteer hours, assistance with making the curriculum Automotive Service Excellence- (ASE) certified, retrofitting the customer waiting area and equipment and materials worth more than $300,000. Metro Schools’ construction crews spent the summer building a new customer care center to handle the retail transactions and customer waiting area. The training center, staffed by Maplewood High School students under the guidance of their automotive teacher Twjuana “TJ” Williams, will be open to the public for repair services and tire installation. All revenue generated from service and sales will be reinvested into the program.

While working in the center during class time and after school, students learn specialized knowledge and skills in automotive technology and hear from guest speakers from time to time. The classroom coursework will be directly tied to the repair work they do in the center.

Through dual enrollment at Nashville State Community College or Volunteer State Community College, students will have the opportunity to earn up to three college credits in maintenance and light repair. They can also take the exam for the ASE professional certification, a key step in starting a career or post-secondary education in automotive technology.

“We are focused on long-term positive outcomes for our students, not just short-term gains,” said Henson. “That means looking beyond our school walls and empowering them with the skills and drive to succeed after graduation. We don’t have to choose between preparing students for college or career – we can do both and give all students a choice in where to take their lives next.”

Maplewood executive principal Dr. Ron Woodard has taken that focus to heart, giving students the chance to find their interests and passions while in high school along with the opportunities to pursue them. The graduation rate at Maplewood climbed to more than 82% in 2013-14, the highest it’s ever been, while scholarships topped $3.3 million. The Bridgestone Americas collaboration is just the latest for the school’s Academies, which have 46 local businesses and nonprofit organizations signed on as official Academy partners.

“Exciting times are on the horizon for our students and our community,” said Dr. Woodard. “As a result of our work with Bridgestone, students will obtain the knowledge and skills that they need in order to compete for higher wage earning positions. This is truly a life-changing opportunity that will foster hope and inspire future generations to succeed.”

Bridgestone’s support of Maplewood was made possible by the PENCIL Foundation, which is the organization charged with connecting business and organizations with schools. With PENCIL’s help, the Academies of Nashville have found more than 300 business partners to support academic pathways with materials, volunteers, job shadowing and more.

“Thank you to Bridgestone and the PENCIL Foundation for making this possible, and thank you to the teachers and leaders at Maplewood,” said Henson. “They have created a culture where this kind of cooperative project is not only possible, it is attractive to global corporations like Bridgestone. This is yet another sign that they are putting students first and are focused on their success.”

14 Metro schools named Reward Schools, rank among the top five percent statewide

Reward Schools list includes 6 charters, 5 magnets, 2 zoned schools and 1 non-traditional school

Apollo Middle Prep

Apollo Middle Prep

Fourteen Metro schools placed in the top five percent of public schools statewide for academic achievement, growth or both, according to the Tennessee Reward Schools list released by the Tennessee Department of Education today. The list of Metro Schools represents a mix of charter schools, magnet schools and zoned schools.

Reward schools earn recognition for performance, meaning very high raw achievement scores, or progress, meaning a large increase in scores from year to year. Two of the schools made the Reward list for both performance and progress, placing them in the upper echelons of schools statewide – Liberty Collegiate Academy, a charter school in East Nashville, and MNPS Middle College High School, a non-traditional school located on the campus of Nashville State Community College.

“This is a great way to start the school year. It validates the work our teachers are doing and gives us great momentum going into the first day of school,” said Interim Director of Schools Chris Henson. “We have been visiting with teachers over the last several days, encouraging them to continue this steady progress. Having such high recognition for so many of our schools is evidence that they are helping improve educational opportunities for students of all backgrounds and from all areas of Nashville.”

The district’s 2014-15 Reward Schools are:

  • Glendale Elementary Spanish Immersion Elementary School – Performance
  • Lockeland Elementary Design Center – Performance
  • Percy Priest Elementary School – Performance
  • Meigs Magnet Middle Prep – Performance
  • Hume-Fogg Magnet High School – Performance
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Magnet School – Performance
  • Liberty Collegiate Academy – Performance & Progress
  • MNPS Middle College High School – Performance & Progress
  • Apollo Middle Prep – Progress
  • Intrepid College Preparatory School – Progress
  • KIPP Academy Nashville – Progress
  • Lead Academy – Progress
  • LEAD Prep Southeast – Progress
  • New Vision Academy – Progress

Five of these schools are on the Reward list for the first time:

  • Apollo Middle Prep has been on the road of steady improvement for five years and has made incredible gains in all three tested subjects – 30 percentage points in math, 25 percentage points in science and nine percentage points in reading – with more than 86 percent of its student population coming from economically disadvantaged homes.
  • MNPS Middle College High School, located on the Nashville State Community College campus, has been quietly building its reputation as a top-tier Nashville high school where students can earn high school diplomas and dozens of college credits simultaneously. Last year alone, 68 students earned 883 college credits, 2 associates degrees and 2 general education certifications before actually graduating from high school.
  • Three Metro charter schools are also first timers on the Reward list. LEAD Academy, LEAD Prep Southeast and Intrepid College Prep are all being recognized for growth in student achievement. All three also serve student populations with more than 75 percent coming from economically disadvantaged homes.

The other eight schools returned to the list for at least a second year in a row, including five magnet schools and two charter schools.

“We are proud of all of these schools,” said Henson. “They represent the story that is being told in more than 160 schools district-wide. We are a district on the rise, and we will not stop until every child in Nashville has the chance for a world-class education.”

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