Clashes over leadership at Metro Nashville School board meeting

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Criticism of Metro Schools and its leadership became heated at Tuesday night’s school board meeting. 

For the past year Director of Metro Nashville Public Schools, Dr. Shawn Joseph, has faced criticism for underperforming schools and poor handling of allegations against the school district. 

Disagreement over his leadership has led to protests at recent Metro School Board meetings. 

This week, News 2 obtained a text message sent by a Metro School Board member encouraging another protest. The message sent by Jill Speering said the motto of the protest would be, “we need new leadership.” The message also encouraged teachers to wear “masks” if they were concerned about retaliation. 

That text prompted a drove of Dr. Joseph supporters to show up, hoping to counteract any protestors. 

Speering shared with News 2 that her text was only meant to encourage teachers, hoping they would share their opinions without fear. 

“That’s why the masks were considered, to begin with, because teachers want to be able to assert their First Amendment rights and be able to speak.” 

Some Board members said the text was a nod to a hate group. 

“I’m not sure if Mrs. Speering made the connection to the mass protest she encouraged today, and those of yesteryears held by the Ku Klux Kaln, but I did.” said Christiane Buggs, a Metro School Board Member. 

Another Metro School Board member, said the opposition to Dr. Shawn Joseph, had nothing to do with race. 

“It has nothing to do with race. This climate has been created that it’s about race and it’s not about race – and its never been about race. It’s always been about our teachers and our students, and our outcomes – and our administration, and the lack of leadership.”  said Fran Bush.

Dr. Sean Joseph shared his thoughts about the text message, 

“It’s disappointing that in 2019 you don’t have people who have the cultural astuteness to recognize that masks may be offensive.” 

Kelly Watling, a parent of a Metro Schools student, spoke against Dr. Joseph at the meeting. She said teachers are genuinely afraid to speak out with their concerns or critique the School District. 

“That fear isn’t made up, every teacher I’ve spoken to is afraid to speak up.” 

Dr. Joseph said he maintains an open-door policy, and retaliation has never happened against anyone. 

“I’m very open, any teacher that has emailed me can tell you that they get a response directly from me and I always invite them to come in for coffee and I say  “let’s talk about it.'”
 

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