Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Considering a Campaign of My Own

Why would anyone want to be on the school board? It is the classic position of all the responsibility coupled with none of the power, right? It is a part time job with full time duties. The combination of electoral politics and solid board judgment makes the job impossible from the start. And, have you seen the state of our schools? How could you make any difference in that?

As I have seriously considered entering the race for school board in district 9, these tidbits of conventional wisdom about the decision have never been far from my mind. It will take too much time for too little improvement, said many. You will grow frustrated as you try to bring people together who have spent too much time apart. Getting the board to focus on a few priorities, set high and accountable standards, and hold the Director responsible for meeting those ambitious goals is simply not possible, said many.

And they may be right. But there comes a time when it is time to stop speculating and start finding out. I have spent the better part of my 40 years as an observer and critic of politics and politicians. I have lived in the world of ideas. Iknow how to listen, consider, and debate. Though I have tried to eschew harsh and divisive criticism in favor of more optimistic and cooperative dialogue, the gap between what I have believed to be possible and what I have acted to bring about has always plagued my thinking. Identifying a problem about which I felt qualified to advance a solution but stopping short of that public commitment that puts me and my loved ones on the line has kept me from being the change I want to see. The risk so seemingly great...the reward so frustratingly elusive.

I have, in particular, devoted my life to education. As a teacher, I like nothing more than the moment of realization when the student grasps the concept for the first time. As a parent I long for those meaningful relationships between my children and their teachers that will cultivate in my children the passsion for life-long learning that my own great teachers instilled in me. As an educational administrator, PTO member, Parent Advisory Council member, and active parent I want to see reasoned discourse, and data-driven decisions that can rally support for the broad mission of educating all the children of Nashville. As a citizen of Davidson County, I yearn for the pride that comes from living in a city whose reputation for excellent public schools is second to none, attracting all the commerce and community involvement that vibrant cities with that reputation enjoy.

Do I imagine that the grueling sacrifices associated with a political campaign will enable me to realize all of those aspirations? Not really. Will incremental progress be enough to satisfy me? No. Am I likely to be frustrated. Seems like it.

So why do it?

I guess it comes down to a simple feeling of responsibility to the children and families of this community. We have an obligation to be sure that each child in our community is educated and ready for the future he or she will inherit. We need school board members who can work together and generate meaningful cooperation and creative efforts not only to leave no child behind but to propel each child into the future. We need a school board who can hire a director whose grasp of institutional management is realistic and nuanced. One who recognizes that generating ownership in the system, communicating effectively, and inspiring enthusiasm to work hard (whether the workers in question are students, parents, teachers, administrators, custodians, PE teachers, arts teachers, special ed teachers, ELL teachers, principals, counselors, city leaders, community activists, or any of the multitude of others in this community with a direct stake in the education of our children) are the essential ingredients for success in the common goal of educational excellence that we all pursue.

Can I help with that? I think I have the perspective, the experience, the empathy, and the patience to help with that in many ways.

I don't think I can afford to wait until a more comfortable time. Now is the time, and if I am going to confront the challenges and do my part, now is the time for that.

What's the matter with Tennessee? Nothing that can't be rectified by the active and serious efforts of committed and caring Tennesseans.

Perhaps it is my turn to do something.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

So are you going to run? It's exactly as you described it. How old are your children?

Alan Coverstone said...

My children are in 1st and 4th grade. My motivation to be involved comes from my desire to see them, their friends, and future colleagues prepared for the future they will inhabit. That's a tall order, but we are at a critical juncture in our city's ability to meet the high expectations that I and so many other parents in Nashville have. I cannot shrink from that challenge.

Anonymous said...

I am curious--given that you teach at MBA, are you planning to move your children to that school when they are old enough, or are you going to stick with public schools?

Anonymous said...

If you are willing to stay with public schools for your children and look to the longterm solutions, I would be willing to work for you and make major contributions to your campaign. But, if you are like, possibly Mr. Fox, no. There are no short term solutions and no quick fixes for what is the most important job we do which is the education of our future: not just our "leaders, aka wealthy" but the innovators, creators, and loyal workers. Where are you on this contiuum?

Alan Coverstone said...

I am interested in serving on the school board because of all the experiences I have had in education. I graduated from a public high school. I have fought to maintain funding for the school my children attend, I have worked with parents to build support for children and involvement in schools. I have also taught in an independent school and worked to support charters like LEAD Academy.

Through it all, I have seen things that work and things that don't, and over the years, I have felt an ever increasing responsibility to involve myself deeply in the future of education in Nashville.

Decisions about where to send children for school are decisions that families make for a wide variety of reasons. Every parent wants to be in control of the educational choices their children have. Parents become discouraged and involvement suffers when they feel those choices are out of their hands. Students lose interest and drop out when they feel stuck in a situation where they have no control.

In Nashville, one thing is clear: Some families enjoy choices that others do not. We have to realize that only by investing in our public system and holding public school leaders accountable for offering strong educational opportunities for all can we make a difference in that situation.

I work on behalf of public schools because I want to see every school in Nashville offer a high quality and particular education so that all parents have real choices that they can exercise on the basis of their own understanding of their children's needs.

I keep coming back to my strong feeling that if the only people who are qualified or welcome to support public education are those currently working in and sending their children to the public schools, then we will never build the broad consensus for public education that we need to make it a real commitment of our entire community.

We've all got to pull together on this one because if we don't get education right, we won't get anything right.

Anonymous said...

Alan, I always review your blog and appreciate your ideas and interest in MNPS schools. I agree that a broader group of citizens need to be involved in MNPS. My impression is that you would make a great board member. You will probably run into some questions b/c of your affiliation with MBA. As a native Nashvillian, I can tell you that there is a lot of division between private and public school advocates in this city. While this may not be productive, you will have to set yourself apart from the experience many of us "public school folks" have had with many private school people over the years. These experiences have included the "white flight" history of many Nashville private schools; a social culture that disparages any and all public schools; admissions offices that justify to families their high tuition by smearing strong public schools; and the comments I have heard from private schools parents that their main concern with MNPS is that they pay too much in taxes to support schools for "those kids." I hope that if you are on the board you can help to bridge this divide.

Anonymous said...

Alan, this is "anonymous comment 6" again. Just wanted to clarify that I hope you run and I hope you are our next board. I hope your unique experiences will serve to help motivate a segment of "movers and shakers" in our city that have, to date, sat on the sidelines with respect to MNPS. Just want you to be aware that you will need to address some trust issues with respect to the public/private divide.

Alan Coverstone said...

Thanks. I understand the questions. I hope by running that I can bring more people to appreciate and support public education because of how central it is to our success as a city and how important it is to stay focused on the children. Thanks to those who support me as well as those who don't.

I am running.

Anonymous said...

Do you have a campaigh website, apart from this blog?

Alan Coverstone said...

www.coverstone4schools.com

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