Nashville Mayor David Briley dedicated the largest amount of time in his State of Metro speech on Tuesday to discussing the public school system, which he called his top priority.
Briley also showed he’s willing to use sharp words to try to influence the district’s leaders. But there’s only so much the mayor can do for the schools on his own.
About a quarter of Briley's speech was dedicated to the problems plaguing Metro Nashville Public Schools. And according to the mayor, those issues have resided at the top.
Nashville teachers work hard, Briley said, and they deserve better from the district leadership.
“We have a school system that has for many years been riddled with in-fighting amongst the adults,” he said.
That's kept the district from developing a multi-year plan, according to Briley. He pledged to correct that.
But the mayor is limited. Briley can give the schools more money — but he cannot dictate how the school board spends it. So, he resorted to a different tone.
“To the Metro School board: We are asking you, we are begging you, we are pleading with you to make sure that the No. 1 priority, when it comes to the budget, is getting more money into the hands of our teachers and support staff this year.”
Briley's problem is one mayors in Metro Nashville have always faced. But he has tried to strengthen his hand. As part of the negotiations around the firing of superintendent Shawn Joseph earlier this year, Briley got the district to sign an agreement that’s supposed to get the mayor's office more involved in district finances, human resources, and planning.
But in the end, Briley will need allies to make that work.
One person he’s aligning himself with is the interim Schools Director Adrienne Battle. She was one of a few people the mayor asked to stand for recognition during the State of Metro speech.
Briley called her job the toughest in the city.