Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Maybe Jerry Maynard Should be Mayor

At the JCC Forum the other night, I was most impressed with Jerry Maynard. Megan Barry continued to stake out a strong position in support of the real choices that we must make if if our public schools are really the priority almost all of the candidates seemed to say there were, but Jerry Maynard did two things that moved me incredibly:

First, he put forward a specific, simply, affordable, and workable plan to improve educational outcomes. His individual strategic plan, signed by parents, and supported by a mentor scholarship program is the kind of idea that only someone with real experience working with at-risk youth could possibly advance. His grasp of the situation is solid, and his clear ideas show that he will be a Council member (would that he could be Mayor) whom we can count on to solve problems rather than passing the blame for them.

Second, and more significantly, Maynard was the only candidate that I heard to say that the City Council can do more than pay the bills for the schools. He said the Council should lead....LEAD. I have been writing here for quite awhile begging candidates who want to occupy city office to shoulder the genuine responsibility for leadership on the education issue.

What we mostly get is lip service..."I am the education candidate; education is my top priority," without a genuine and inspiring willingness to say, "I want the job because I want to be held accountable for the success of our public schools." That's powerful, and the city will get behind that kind of approach.

Many of the other candidates for the at-large seats literally said they would like to help schools, but all they can do is pass the budget. That's pretty hard to turn into an inspiring position supporting a property tax referendum if that were to be necessary. In fact, it is the same old conservative position that protects an individuals political stature at the expense of our city's children. When the Council members say, "We just pass the budget," it is a short leap in logic to the conclusion that they want people to believe the school board and district are solely responsible if schools fail. Mayor's by the way, can easily play this same game by implicitly allowing blame to fall on the school board, thereby justifying further (and more popular) tax reductions at the expense of kids.

Passing blame is only useful for protecting the political fortunes of individual politicians. Passing good public policy requires leadership, sacrifice, and risk-taking. That's why Jerry Maynard is the best mayoral candidate I have seen since the end of the first round. I guess, Mayoral stature on the City Council won't be all bad.

How does a write-in campaign go?


Lauren said...

But Alan, I think it's become so much more complicated, funding the schools. Nothing I say should be considered support for our city council, because it is not. But our school board is so personally divisive, they regularly choose political agendas over what is best for our children and they will not make the hard choices such as closing small schools or rezoning to prove they are fiscally ready to meet the council halfway. Until this city has a school board that puts kids and education first, I can't always blame the council for giving them short shrift on the bucks. It is the only way they have of showing displeasure with the progress made so far. And I can't say I necessarily disagree.

martin kennedy said...

... In fact, it is the same old conservative position that protects an individuals political stature at the expense of our city's children.

You lost me here Alan (see my comment over at Volunteer Voters). Could you explain. I think a write-in campaign could be good.

Alan Coverstone said...

Thanks for the good comments, and don't get me wrong. Each player (mayor, city council, school board, administration, principal, teacher, parent, student, etc.) has a role to play, and failures in education are community failures with plenty of blame to spread around. I am only pointing out that every player has a political interest in blaming another for failure and few stand up to say we all have important roles to play, and we must all accept responsibility before this community endeavor (educating kids) will be a success.

Alan Coverstone said...

Oh, and Martin, conservative...small c. By that I mean the political forces favor blame shifting. If you can blame someone else, then you are seen as holding someone accountable, even though the blame shift doesn't change any actual policy or practice. So this election, the school board is to blame, and we elect a city council because the school board is bad. Next cycle, the school board candidates will talk about how much the city council ties their hands.

My point is that each election, blame gets spread, but the status quo is ultimately preserved.

I hope that clarifies what I am thinking. Do I seem right?

Alan Coverstone said...

You're right, Lauren. Don't confuse me to say that the school board is blameless. There effort has been inconsistent, and incomplete. Part of the problem involves the time the school board spends blaming the council, the mayor, or the state.

We need to vote for people who accept the responsibility for making joint sacrifices in order to succeed in education.

Lauren said...

I agree this is a multi-faceted problem - how to deal with our schools. But if we had a truly competent school board then the council and mayor would have to start cooperating because it would be the politically proper thing to do. The board just has to deal with the overcapacity issue before the council will give them a meaningful bump. Purcell did give a huge infusion of cash in his first term for the capital budget, with council support. But lack of cooperation with what the council wants from the schools as far as overcapacity has hampered any further meaningful assistance. However, the board can certainly find enough money to glom onto whatever new educational fad comes their way - whether it be Big Bicture, Small Learning, Freshman Academies, Middle College, Same Sex, etc., etc. - all the while driving away the middle class - which is also really hurting them with the council. Many to blame but I think it has to start with the board. And if Jerry Maynard can put some vocal and insistent pressure on the board - then I say Maynard for Mayor. Because the board's not gonna do it on their own. We need a mayor with a bully pulpit to make our board do the right thing. I kind of think Purcell wore out on the board and just gave up the last couple of years.

Alan Coverstone said...

Very well said, and 100% accurate in my opinion and from my experience!

Lauren said...

Thanks so much Alan! I feel I owe you a somewhat intelligent interaction, first, because you're a good guy raising important questions. Second, because I feel like I inadvertantly was part of the problem when you did not get to ask your questions of Dean and I feel really bad about that. This is my feeble attempt at an apology. Feeble, but very sincere:)

Alan Coverstone said...

I don't know how you could be responsible for it, and I don't feel bad, so no one should owe me an apology. The line had to end at some point.

However, if you do have the wherewithal, I'd still like to hear some discussion of the question by the candidate.

M Kennedy said...

... the board can certainly find enough money to glom onto whatever new educational fad comes their way - whether it be Big Bicture, Small Learning, Freshman Academies, Middle College, Same Sex, etc., etc. - all the while driving away the middle class -

I don't think they are fads. I think they are attempts to offer some choice. I think they'll tend to attract the middle class. What private schools offer these approaches?

Alan Coverstone said...

I agree that choice, when it produces meaningful student-focused achievement gains, does draw the middle class. My advocacy work is through the magnet schools, and you are right that private and indpendent schools use meaningful choices and authentic themes to draw middle class applicants.

Unfortunately, thematic authenticity has eroded considerably (for a host of reasons I don't have time to detail my thoughts on right now), and when that happens, "choice" begins to lose meaning.

Often, supporters of choices are pitted against supporters of zoned schools, but that is a false divide that is counterproductive to our larger goals. Attending a zoned school is also a choiuce, and it ought to be a good one for the students who choose it. Those students ought also to have real choice. In Nashville, though, if the student can't provide his/her own transportation to a choice school, then the zoned school bus route becomes the only real choice.

MOON said...