Nashville Schools – Tale of 2 Cities?

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”

“it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair . . .”

A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens (1859)

How does this Describe the current state of the Metro Nashville Public School System?

There’s so much negative that is said about our school system, yet there are plenty of advocates who say the true condition (the reality) of the schools is far better than the perception . . . so mused Bill Freeman (Mayoral Candidate for 2015).

So they’re not as bad as many people believe them to be?

Even as the MNPS National rankings continue to be sub-par and even “poor” over-all, there are many shining stars in the System . . . Some schools are performing at astonishingly high levels (Hume Fogg, Maplewood, Percy Priest). What makes those schools succeed while other schools in the same system don’t?

This tells me there’s a deficiency of consistency.

The burning question then for the next Mayor is the same burning question that every Mayor of Nashville has had to face for as long as I’ve been aware (52 year old Nashville Native).

Why can’t we figure this out?

This perception of poor quality public education in Davidson County is causing the very people and companies we NEED to live in Davidson county to LEAVE for “greener pastures” (Better schools). The contiguous counties are reaping HUGE benefits as more and more families take flight. Our inability to get the schools right is costing us economically as Davidson County selflessly bears the brunt of maintaining and developing the core infrastructure for the entire MSA (Region?) . . . paid for by Davidson residents as evidenced by increasing real property taxes which are now significantly higher than taxes in adjoining counties.

The least we can do is take care of our CHILDREN first. That would be a nice step towards reducing the exodus of families.

(Dealing with Nashville’s ever-worsening traffic GRIDLOCK is of equal importance – I address that issue HERE)

This is not a new problem.

I believe this is a problem we can fix, and I have some suggestions for our next Mayor.

If you don’t like my suggestions, there’s good news – I’m NOT running for Mayor 🙂

Let’s start by doing whatever it takes for our Public Schools NOT to look like “Government Buildings”

I’m a REALTOR, so some of these suggestions might sound a little bit like getting a house ready to sell – hmmmm

  • If you look good, you feel good and perform better and take more PRIDE and CONFIDENCE

    • Curb Appeal – Many of our schools look VERY tired and disheveled. They don’t have to. Some folks offer up the excuse that the schools are old, and that’s just the way old schools look. I don’t buy that. So the first thing I would suggest is to get systems in place to improve and maintain the exterior of every school in the county. This most probably will require some help from the surrounding community (more on that later) because we know that the budget probably doesn’t allow for spending more money for “beautification.”
    • Ummm . . . do the same INSIDE the school.
    • Require a dress code . . . I don’t think it would be out of line to put all students in uniforms. So, do you think I’m NUTS? When I was in the deep jungle of Panama on an Army assignment, I passed through and spent time in several villages. These folks lived very simple lives with dirt floors, thatched roofs, and virtually zero contact with the outside world, yet EVERY child wore the exact same uniform to school every day – with pride.
  • Re-define the role of the schools in the community. Yep! Let the schools be “Community HUBs” . . . the safe and accessible place for members of the community to use for gatherings and celebrations and fairs etc. This would require a MAJOR shift in the current paradigm of locking the buildings up Friday afternoon and leaving them abandoned until Monday morning.
  • Build the LOCAL community around the school. Semantics are important here. It’s never made good sense to me to bus our children across town to a school away from their home community. This discourages parental involvement in the schools especially for those parents who have rigorous work schedules and/or have transportation challenges (don’t own a car). “Integration” had many good intentions. I was in 4th grade when it started. In 5th grade I rode the bus every day to Head Elementary rather than being able to ride my bicycle to West End Middle. I believe that ALL schools will be stronger when their student populations are made up of the people who live in close proximity to the buildings. This provides for more community engagement . . . Take buses off the roads and Build more sidewalks with the money that’s saved from not having to pay for the equipment, fuel and maintenance.
  • Student Participation – Invite the students themselves to take a share of the Ownership in improving their (now) neighborhood School. Put trash bags in their hands to clean the grounds – Paint brushes in their hands to paint the walls – and give them the power to speak up and offer suggestions for improvements.
  • Parental Involvement – Welcome the parents and invite THEM to engage alongside their children with the common goal that they are all on a mission to make THEIR school the BEST in the city.
  • Community Involvement – Invite Local Businesses to invest and participate. Give them proper credit (Marketing exposure). Invite Local professionals to work with students as mentors, internships, participate in forums.
  • Focused and cohesive curriculum appropriately tailored to the  demographic of the population of students. Clearly, not all neighborhoods have the same make-up in terms of economic and social parameters, and that is a frequent excuse for some schools to perform poorly. This does NOT have to be the case. A school in a destitute area has the same potential to shine as one in an affluent area. When it comes to education, throwing money at it isn’t the answer . . . it’s gotta be done by fostering community PASSION and then creating a safe and accessible space in which they can take responsibility through appropriate ACTION in their own neighborhood.
  • Some of the “challenges” to consider
    • There are in the neighborhood of 140 different languages spoken in Davidson County.
    • With that in mind, there are some schools with as much as 80% of their student body who speak English as a 2nd or 3rd Language
    • Families at “Poverty Level” are being squeezed out by “gentrification” and rapid Economic Development. That’s not going to stop, but STRONG communities can dovetail new development with sensible and responsible affordable housing.

In my world of Real Estate Sales, the old adage is LOCATION – LOCATION – LOCATION!

and so it is also with schools and community.

Wanna get our school system in better shape?

Quit “institutionalising” it and take it back to the village concept in which the community builds around and embraces the schools because everyone in the community knows that the education of our children will define our future.

In a nutshell

Establish the schools as the Community HUBS, and the “Performance” of our students will improve exponentially.

Try it . . . I think you’ll like the results.


BTW . . . Accomplishing all of the above isn’t nearly as difficult as you might think . . . Once we cease thinking of the schools as “Government run” and shift to “Empowered Community Run” the control freak Politicians will be able to loosen the reigns and sit back in their fluffy armchairs and watch it happen . . .

We’ll let’m have the credit later because it will have happened on their watch 🙂

Published by Barry Owen

Strategist-CEO of Pareto Realty Real estate sales Professional Inviter-Facilitator-Practicer of Open Space Technology Opening safe space for people & organizations to self-organize around issues & opportunities BarryOwen.US Invite-Listen-Love

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