Dispute Over Nashville Schools Chief Reaches Boiling Point | Nashville Public Radio

Dispute Over Nashville Schools Chief Reaches Boiling Point

Mar 25, 2019

A long-festering conflict over the direction of Metro Nashville Public Schools is coming to a head.

Members of the school board are preparing to push out the district's director of schools, Shawn Joseph. Meanwhile, one of Joseph's defenders on the school board has announced that he's stepping down.

"The dishonest and unfair treatment of the first African-American superintendent in the history of Nashville should give the entire community pause," Will Pinkston wrote in a resignation delivered Monday to Board Chair Sharon Gentry. "I am saddened that students in our majority-minority school system have seen what can happen when a leader of color pushes for change in an entrenched bureaucracy."

All of this comes in the wake of a contentious board retreat late last week. One issue that was discussed then — but not resolved — was whether to extend Joseph's contract. That would have been seen as a vote of confidence in the superintendent, who's been hammered by complaints about the district's spending, its handling of sexual harassment cases and departmental oversight.

The district is also divided over next year's budget. Joseph wants to ask the mayor and Metro Council to give teachers 3 percent raises. Most board members want to ask for more.

Defenders of Joseph, who joined Metro Nashville Schools in 2016 after serving as a senior administrator in Maryland and Delaware, contend that the scrutiny has been racially motivated.

Nevertheless, at least three of the school board's nine members appear to favor terminating his contract before it runs out in the summer of 2020. One of those board members, Anna Shepherd, has asked to discuss a termination plan for Joseph as soon as its April 9 meeting. The options include firing him or buying out the remainder of his contract.

Joseph said in a prepared statement that he no longer plans to ask for a contract extension. But he added that he does want to stay on until his current deal runs out.

"After the last board retreat, I realized that my value system no longer aligns with that of some on this board," Joseph said. "It is my hope that the board and I will invoke the terms of my contract that allow us to part in a mutually agreeable way and to provide for a proper and effective transition of leadership."

Shepherd did not respond immediately to a request for comment.