Nashville’s new superintendent has less than a month before school starts, and in his first week on the job, Shawn Joseph says he's concentrating on the most basic services of a school system.
In the midst of heated debates about the growth of charter schools, managing youth violence and educating immigrant students, Shawn Joseph says he’s focused on details.
"I just want to make sure that we’re clear about the customer service that our parents should expect," Joseph says. "We need to make sure that our buildings look great for our kids, so when they come in they’re proud of the building that they go to, and I think we have to make sure we have great teachers and staff ready to go on the first day of school. So those are pretty big tasks that we’re on."
Joseph is also making larger plans for change. His first press conference focused on improving childhood literacy. Less than half of Metro students are reading at grade level.
Joseph says poor reading scores are not a problem specific to Nashville, but a national one: He came from Prince George’s County, Md., and says he’s worked with this literacy issue in the past.
While this is just his first full week on the job, Joseph has been working with the mayor and school board since he was hired in mid-May. Mayor Megan Barry jokes that Joseph’s picture should be next to the definition of "hit the ground running."