Invitation: Wear blue to show the Metro Council how much you support our schools

More pay for all teachers. A new school to ease overcrowding. Preventing dropouts before students even reach high school. Maintaining everyday services to 81,000 students and 10,000 employees.

An enormous amount of thought and effort went into preparing every single line this year’s Operating Budget proposal. It is a carefully crafted plan for continuing the successes already seen in the last three years:

  • more graduates
  • fewer dropouts
  • higher standards
  • greater achievement
  • classes more rigorous than ever before

To vote against fully funding our schools is to slow the forward momentum created under the reforms of MNPS Achieves.

So how can we ensure receiving our full budget request of $720 million?

You are the answer.

We’ve already asked you to contact Council Members to urge support of the Mayor’s budget and property tax proposals. Now we’re asking you to come show your support in person.

Tuesday, June 5, the Council will discuss these proposals and vote on them, the second of three required votes. We want Metro Schools supporters there in force to show Council Members how much we care about our students, our schools, and the future of public education in Nashville.

We’ll all be wearing blue to show our support. All are welcome to join.

WHEN: Tuesday, June 5, 6:30pm
(Come early to be sure you can find parking and arrive before the meeting starts.)

WHERE: Council Chamber, Metro Courthouse

WHO: Everyone who cares about public education. Please wear blue as a visual symbol of your support.

Mayor Dean, Dr. Register show us why Southeast Davidson County schools need capital improvements

Director of Schools Dr. Jesse Register took Mayor Karl Dean and other city and district officials on a tour of a few of the schools in Southeast Davidson County that would receive much needed renovations and expansions under the $100 million capital improvement plan for MNPS.
Capital Improvements Map
The first stop was Oliver Middle School, just eight years old but already 100 students over capacity and in need of more classrooms. The plan for Oliver is to add 12 classrooms to replace its seven portables currently housing sixth grade classes, art, chorus, and Encore.

The story was the same at nearby A.Z. Kelley Elementary: built in 2006, Kelley is 100 students over capacity and in need of ten new classrooms. Parents present at the tour told reporters they support the Mayor’s plan to for a property tax adjustment in order to pay for expansions at this school and others. The Cane Ridge and Antioch areas are among the fastest growing in the county, and schools need to expand along with the population.

While at A.Z. Kelley, Mayor Dean and Dr. Register joined students for lunch in the cafeteria.

The tour then took them to Antioch Middle School. Antioch is in dire need of improvements and renovations. The HVAC, lighting, electrical, and plumbing systems all need major upgrades. Many of the windows are original to the building – from 1948 – and are drafty and crumbling at the edges. The school also needs new flooring in many areas, a new roof, adjustments to ceiling height, and a litany of other repairs and upgrades.

The last stop was Norman Binkley Elementary, where teachers have named a section of the campus “Portable City” because of the 11 portables that house the entire fourth grade class, art and music. The main building at Norman Binkley is also in need of repairs, including replacing the original steam radiators used for heat.

These four schools are among the ten schools that would receive significant capital investment under the Mayor’s budget proposal. The plan also includes money to purchase land for new elementary and middle schools in Southeast Nashville.

How are capital projects chosen and prioritized?

In order to see this plan pass, the Metro Council must pass the budget and an adjustment to the county’s property tax. To voice your opinion on this issue, contact your Council Member.

Below is a detailed list and cost of the projects planned for these four schools. 

Henry Oliver Middle School
($3.6 million) 

6211 Nolensville Road, Nashville
Original Construction: 2004 (expansion needed due to growth in zone)
Enrollment: 804  Capacity: 707
Grades Served: 5-8

  • This project includes new construction for an additional 12 classrooms and minor revisions to the existing building at the location of the addition.
  • Oliver Middle has seven portables, which house sixth-grade classrooms, Arts classes, the Chorus program, and the high-academic program called Encore.

A.Z. Kelley Elementary School
($2.65 million) 

5834 Pettus Road, Antioch
Original Construction: 2006 (expansion needed due to growth in zone)
Enrollment: 561  Capacity: 665
Grades Served: PK-4

  • This project includes new construction for an additional 10 classrooms and minor revisions to the existing building at the location of the addition.
  • A.Z. Kelley Elementary has four portables. In past years, it has had as many as 10, and due to growth in zone, will likely need additional portables next year.

Antioch Middle School
($11 million) 

5050 Blue Hole Road, Antioch
Oldest remaining construction: 1948; additions 1950, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1959, 1963, 1969, 1972; renovation 1999
Enrollment: 461
Grades Served: 5-8

  • Antioch Middle has six portables.
  • Renovation of Antioch Middle would include
    • new finishes – paint, ceilings, floorings
    • major upgrade to HVAC and improvements to electrical, lighting and plumbing systems
    • replace exterior windows
    • new entry vestibule at main entrance
    • revised kitchen area
    • revised administrative area
    • repair or replace roof
    • modify drive to separate car and bus traffic
    • comply with ADA, current building codes and LEED

Norman Binkley Elementary School
($6.5 million)

4700 West Longdale Drive, Nashville
Original Construction: 1960; additions 1961, 1963; 2007
Enrollment: 475  Capacity: 356
Grades Served: PK-4

  • Norman Binkley Elementary currently has 11 portables, which house the fourth grade class, Art, and Music
  • Renovation to Norman Binkley Elementary would include:
    • New construction to provide for improved art, music, library, and kitchen spaces
    • New construction to provide for improved administrative spaces
    • New finishes, paint, ceilings, flooring
    • Major upgrade to HVAC (replace original steam radiators) and improvements to electrical, lighting and plumbing systems.
    • Replace exterior windows
    • New entry vestibule at main entrance
    • Site lighting upgrades.
    • Comply with ADA (repair or replace chair lift), current building codes and LEED.

From NewsChannel5: Mayor, Councilman, & School officials see firsthand why capital spending is needed

Officials Tour School Ready For Renovations – | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

A bit more from our Flickr page:

Mayor Karl Dean and Council Member Anthony Davis joined Director of Schools Dr. Jesse Register and Board members Gracie Porter and Ed Kindall for a tour of the renovation needs for Stratford STEM Magnet High School.

Mayor Dean has proposed $20 million for needed renovations at Stratford, just part of a $100 million plan for capital spending to improve Metro Schools. Renovations at Stratford would include upgrades to HVAC, electrical, plumbing, and lighting systems, many of which are original to the building. The school would also receive a new entry way and all energy efficient windows throughout. Most classrooms would receive drop ceilings to improve insulation and acoustics, as well as replacements for built-in cabinet work. Any settlement cracks would be repaired, as well as broken pavement and brickwork.

The current HVAC system does not dehumidify the school or provide air conditioning for hallways. Old single-pane windows often cannot keep classroom climates appropriate for students, leaving some classrooms unused. All renovations would be LEED certified to make the school more environmentally friendly and energy efficient.

Stratford covers more than 200,000 square feet over 30 acres and hasn’t received any renovations since 1988. The proposed $20 million renovations would update the school to match its forward looking focus on science, technology, engineering, and math.

To learn more about the capital spending proposal and how you can help support it with the Metro Council, visit our blog:

What’s this?

We are advocates for our students.

Since coming to this district as Director, Dr. Jesse Register has led under the philosophy of everyone working to support students and classrooms first. Everything we do can be tied to working for classroom success. It’s true of all employees, from teachers and principals to school bus dispatchers and construction project managers.

We’d like to share that philosophy with the rest of Nashville. Any talk of education or education issues must have students at its center. That is why we have created this blog.

Read more on our About page.

Nashville Prep featured in TN Charter Schools video

The Tennessee Charter Schools Association & Tennessee Charter School Incubator have put together a fine “Get the Facts” video to talk about charter schools, their successes and future. A lot of it was shot at Nashville Prep, a Metro charter school, and some local charter school educators and parents are interviewed. Enjoy!

Nashville Prep

Tennessee Charter School Incubator

Tennessee Charter School Association

Guest Post: Raise My Property Tax. It’s Time.

By Robert Gowan, public school parent & advocate

Mayor Dean has proposed a 53-cent property tax increase for Metro-Nashville taxpayers. The proposed increase would raise about $100 million and $46 million of the increase will go to Metro Schools – a significant portion of the Metro Schools money will go to raise starting teacher salaries by $5,000. Offering a starting salary of $40,000 per year will make Metro very competitive when it comes to recruiting and retaining high quality, effective teachers.

There has been a lot of talk in Tennessee during the last several years about the need for a high quality, effective teacher in every classroom. There has not been much talk about paying those high quality, effective teachers what they are worth. The Metro School Board and Dr. Jesse Register’s proposal to raise starting teacher pay is a huge step toward recognizing the value of high quality, effective teachers.

And we really don’t have a choice except to be more competitive in recruiting and retaining new teachers. After changes to state law during the last three years, I would argue that Tennessee demands more of its public school teachers than any other state. We will have to pay more to keep the high quality, effective teachers we have and to recruit new teachers.

There are several other very important things in Mayor Dean’s proposed budget (funds to retain 50 police officers currently being paid by a federal grant, money to add two positions to the District Attorney’s Office to handle domestic violence cases), but the proposed investment in salaries for Metro’s teachers is a game changer that should be a model for every other school system in the state.

There has not been a property tax increase in Nashville for seven years. Even with this increase Metro’s property tax rate would be the lowest of the four largest cities in Tennessee.

I just ran the calculation on how much 53 cents will cost me. The property tax increase will cost half of what I spent on iTunes last month. The increase is about one-third of what I pay every month for cellphone service. I’m more than willing to pay that to ensure that Metro Schools can continue to recruit and retain high quality, effective teachers for my kids.

This property tax is overdue and it’s necessary if we really want to improve public education in Nashville. The Metro Council should approve the Mayor’s proposed budget as soon as possible.

Please encourage the Metro Council to approve Mayor Dean’s proposed budget. Voting for a tax increase is never easy and our council members need to hear from as many people as possible who want to make this investment in our public schools.

Capital Spending: Where would the $100 million go and why?

In his May 1 State of Metro Address, Mayor Karl Dean announced his proposal to fund $100 million in capital needs for Metro Schools. That would go a long, long way toward helping a number of our schools and communities with needs identified in our Capital Master Plan for 2012-13.

If the Metro Council approves the proposed budget, major projects expected to be funded include:

  • $20 million in renovations at aging Stratford High School
  • A new gym for Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet High
  • Purchasing land for new elementary and middle schools in southeast Davidson County
  • Purchasing land adjacent to Julia Green Elementary
  • Renovations and/or expansions at
    • Rose Park Middle
    • Joelton Middle
    • Antioch Middle
    • Oliver Middle
    • AZ Kelley Elementary
    • John Early Middle
    • Norman Binkley

Those are all schools and areas that need attention, but as some of our families have pointed out, they’re not the only ones.

SEE photos of five schools that need capital improvements.

Here in Nashville, the average age of our public school buildings is 42 years old. Sometimes a school is aged and needs renovation. Sometimes it needs to be expanded. And sometimes it’s just not built to support the level of technology or specific programs we need.

Our total capital funding needs for 2012-13 as listed in the Six-year Capital Master Plan come to $185 million. We didn’t expect to get the full amount and we won’t. So how do we decide which projects will be funded?

Short answer: they’re prioritized.

Long answer: All buildings are assessed in a process done by a company outside of MNPS using a software tool that objectively looks at more than 30 components of each building and assigns it a score. District officials then put together a plan based on the needs of existing schools and projected needs for new schools.

The whole idea is to take any one person or group’s point of view out of this decision-making process. It’s done objectively and independently.

And keep in mind capital needs doesn’t just mean buildings. It also means any equipment expected to last for ten years or more, like school buses and technology, and access improvements for people with disabilities.

It’s been two years since Metro Schools received any capital funding and $100 million will go a long way toward improving the district’s infrastructure and our schools. There will always be more to be done – after all, nothing ever stops aging – but we’d be thrilled to receive such an investment.

Read more about the 2012-13 budget proposal & how you can support it.

What’s behind a budget increase? – Part 3

Last year we spent $674 million educating more than 79,000 students. Every year that number goes up – and not necessarily because we want it to. Inflation hits individuals and organizations alike. We have to pay more for many of the same services we receive year to year.

For 2012-13, the Board of Education has approved a budget increase of more than $48 million over the 2011-12 budget.

So where would it all go? Let’s take a look.

Earlier we saw how people are the biggest expense in Metro Schools and looked at a plan that will pay teachers more and help recruit the best new teachers available.

Today we give you a plan to replicate some of the success we’ve already had in graduating more students and preventing drop outs. And we need your help to make it happen.


We already mentioned the new Cane Ridge Elementary School. That’s an area that needs a new school and will get one no matter what. But we also need new schools for those students who may need a little extra help or a second chance.

No one wants a student to drop out of school. We want every child who enters our schools to leave with a high school diploma. One way in which we’ve made huge strides toward making this happen is with our Academy schools. The Academy at Old Cockrill and the Academy at Hickory Hollow are terrific schools for students who need another option for earning their diploma. They opened three years ago and have since graduated 1,000 students. And they do it at a fraction of the cost of a traditional high school. It’s one reason for the significant rise in our high school graduation rates.

They have been so successful, in fact, that we’d like to open another one. Opry Mills was the original home of the Academy at Hickory Hollow, but the school had to move after the May 2010 flood destroyed the mall. Now that the mall is back open, we’ve been invited to reopen the Academy at Opry Mills. We know a third Academy will turn out as many graduates as the other two. But it requires more teachers, an investment in technology, and supplies. And all of that costs money.

WATCH a news report on Academy successes

Another step in fighting the dropout rate is catching students early, before they get to high school. That’s the idea behind the new Nashville Bridge School proposed in this budget. Bridge would be a place for middle school students who are over aged and under credited, which are warning signs of dropping out. These students would attend Bridge until they get back on track academically.

These are proven strategies to boost the graduation rate. And they’ll do it for less money than traditional schools: $2.1 million. That takes our total increases up to $47.5 million.

SEE the approved budget proposal in its entirety.


Where does the other million in expenses go? Several smaller increases are listed below:

  • Match for Teacher Incentive Fund Grant: $292,000
  • Increase in contract with New Teacher Project: $261,000
  • Increase in contracts for Health Services for school nurses (Red Cross, Metro Health, & Vanderbilt): $398,000
  • Hiring more school translators: $117,400
  • Hiring more parent outreach translators: $165,000
  • Making up for funds in a now-expired grant for Smaller Learning Communities: $198,800
  • Music Makes Us, the collaboration among Mayor Dean, the district and private supporters to improve music education: $540,900
  • Staffing adjustments in various departments: $1,783,000

There are also savings!

  • Staff savings (including changes to pension, FICA savings, and new hires replacing higher paid retirees): $3,632,000
  • Not purchasing new literature textbooks (they must be further studied for compatibility with Common Core Standards): $2,000,000

And when it’s all added together it comes out like this:

  • NEEDED CHANGES: $39,401,200
  • PROPOSED CHANGES: $9,484,300


How can the district get the funding needed? You are the answer. We need your public show of support for fully funding Metro Schools.

Mayor Dean has presented his full budget proposal for Metro Nashville to the Metro Council. In June the Metro Council will vote on a final budget, including funding for schools.

Call and email your Council Member and the five at-large Council Members and ask them to vote for the Mayor’s budget for schools.

List of Metro Council Members

Metro Nashville’s public schools are making strides. Support full funding for education, so schools can continue the journey to success.

What’s behind a budget increase? – Part 2

Last year we spent $674 million educating more than 79,000 students. Every year that number goes up – and not necessarily because we want it to. Inflation hits individuals and organizations alike. We have to pay more for many of the same services we receive year to year.

For 2012-13, the Board of Education has approved a budget increase of more than $48 million over the 2011-12 budget.

So where would it all go? Let’s take a look.

Earlier we saw how people are the biggest expense in Metro Schools, and how inflation, raises, and needed new hires account for a huge majority of the requested budget increase. But that’s not all of it. We also have some new ideas that will continue the strides we’re making. And as usual, it starts with teachers.


No one will argue over the importance of hiring the very best teachers we can find. But that’s actually a lot harder than you think.

Working in an urban school district is not easy. As Director of Schools, Dr. Jesse Register, has said so many times, “We’ll never be the easiest place to work, but we can be the best.” Attracting great teachers to an urban district is tough when a suburban rural district pays more. Currently Metro Schools is ranked 30th in the state in starting teacher pay.

Let that sink in. We are the 2nd largest district in the state, but 29 districts pay teachers more than we do. That has to change.

And we don’t just compete with Tennessee districts for the best teachers; we compete with cities from across the region. Teacher recruiters from Houston have visited Nashville three times this year offering new teachers $44,000 a year.

SEE the approved budget proposal in its entirety.

Under the 2012-13 budget, teachers would start out making $40,000 annually, placing us 3rd in the state and positioning us to hire more of the strongest teachers who have their pick of jobs. That also means current teachers with up to five years’ experience who make less than $40,000 will get bumped up to that level. We’re also proposing changes to teacher pay at the top end, allowing them to reach the top level after just 15 years, not 25.

SEE a list of starting teacher salaries across Tennessee.

These are the kind of dramatic steps that will draw great teachers and college graduates to Metro Nashville Public Schools. Our hiring recruiters are already hearing positive buzz building around our district just at the very mention of a $40,000 starting salary. It must be done if we are to be considered a top destination for the best of the best.

What’s the price tag on this huge step in the right direction? Just under $6 million, bringing us to a total of $45.3 million in additional costs for 2012-13.

Next we’ll talk about giving more of a very good thing. When a school helps produce more graduates and fewer dropouts, why not open another?

What’s behind a budget increase? – Part 1

Last year we spent $674 million educating more than 79,000 students. Every year that number goes up – and not necessarily because we want it to. Inflation hits individuals and organizations alike. We have to pay more for many of the same services we receive year to year.

For 2012-13, the Board of Education has approved a budget increase of more than $48 million over the 2011-12 budget. But you may be surprised to learn a huge majority of that increase comes from unavoidable increases. The rest would be dedicated to programs aimed at increasing achievement, bettering our schools, and graduating more students.

So where would it all go? Let’s take a look.


The most expensive part of almost any organization is people. A school district is no exception. Some 80% of our budget goes to people – salaries, insurance, and pensions. Every year the amount of money required to keep those people goes up just a little bit. Insurance costs rise and many employees are eligible for “step” salary increases.

SEE the approved budget proposal in its entirety.

On top of that, the State of Tennessee has passed a 2.5% raise for teachers, and the district pays most of that. This year, we’re also proposing a 2% raise for support employees. These are the bus drivers, school secretaries, cafeteria staff, and many more who have not had a raise since 2008. They deserve one.

This year we’re also opening a new elementary school in Cane Ridge, because of big growth in that area. That requires hiring 13 new employees and boosting maintenance and custodial budgets. Across the district, we expect about 1,700 new students next year, meaning we have to hire new teachers to keep up our teacher-to-student ratios within state law. That’s 100 new teachers. Add to that three more school days next year (which are also more paid days for support staff) and two new charter schools opening. They’re all necessary additions and they all cost money.

So when you add all of that together, where do we stand? Just these needed – and in some cases unavoidable – costs come to an additional $39.4 million for 2012-13. That’s more than 80% of our requested budget increase.

Next we’ll talk about some of the specific proposals to make our schools even better, including how to turn Nashville into a destination for the very best new teachers in the country.