2018 was an important year for our family, ushering in changes and much to celebrate. Eli entered his senior year at Centre College, Eddie earned a Guggenheim award for his research in Mexican history, and I was elected to the School Board with the help of family, friends and an amazing team. We have a lot to be thankful for, and I know that 2019 will be a year of learning and growth.
I spent the last four months on a rather steep learning curve as a School Board member, trying to identify and master the “hidden rules”, as we say in the education business. I did my homework before for each meeting or retreat, and asked questions and contributed when I thought it furthered the conversation. I came in with the distinct advantage of having strong relationships with people inside and outside of MNPS, all working hard to help our school system succeed. But I still have a lot to learn about how change is made, how to use my voice, and to measure success or define challenges and solutions in a range of key areas. Thank you for giving me the space to learn this fall, and I am glad to be back with my blog to share some thoughts. Here a just a few of my highlights from 2018:
I met hundreds of amazing people on the campaign trail and since my election, and have learned so much about my hometown and about our commitment to public education.
Once elected, I began to visit District 8 schools, attending celebrations and events, and hearing from principals and staff about their experiences, needs, and aspirations.
I met and heard from many parents, and did my best to provide them with information, and to troubleshoot issues whenever possible.
I visited classrooms and made presentations to students, and I got to see our incredible teachers in action.
I have read countless articles and books on education leadership and policy-making in an effort to inform my thinking.
I was named chair of the Governance Committee, and am learning how to use the position to address key issues, provide clarity, and to examine existing or potential policies that support our work.
I built strong working relationships with the Metro Council members that serve District 8 and am inspired by their dedication and knowledge.
I was able to keep the Stokes building from the auction block as we face significant budget challenges. I believe we must hold on to our assets and not sell them just to cover a one-time shortfall, and I hope to work with community leaders to find a solution for Stokes that benefits the neighborhood.
I committed to re-launching an exploration of later start times for our high schools, and look forward to working with parents, staff and students to study this issue.
And here are some of my priorities and interests for 2019:
I have begun to build my own dashboard, if you will, on a broad range of key data points and information related to the success of MNPS. I will make decisions this year based on the evidence at hand, and will share how I interpret and use it to inform my work on the board, including our upcoming budget process and our mid-year and summative evaluations of the performance of Dr. Joseph.
I am committed, along with some key allies, to creating a forum for our community to participate in conversations about public education in Nashville. I hope to create opportunities for dialogue on what research and practice tell us on topics like school turnaround, teacher recruitment and retention, school funding, integration, choice, parent engagement and leadership, instructional practice, school culture, discipline, and more.
I will remain vigilant on the implementation of the new Sanctuary City bill that passed the state legislature, and push to make sure that our immigrant families and students feel welcomed and safe in every one of our schools.
I hope to participate in efforts to create workforce housing for teachers in Nashville, and to build on the success of other cities that have been able to do so.
I will launch an inclusive and open process to examine later start times for our high schools.
I will serve as an advocate for our students and schools by working closely with Mayor Briley, Metro Council members, the State Board and Tennessee Department of Education, and state and national legislators to make sure they understand our unique opportunities and challenges, and to ensure that we get the resources and support necessary for our success.
I commit to using my voice as a School Board member to build trust in our ability to lead and to improve outcomes for every student in our city. We must model the behavior that we expect from our students and staff, and honor the hard work that they do every day.
Thank you as always for your support and please continue to reach out to me with ideas and opportunities to engage and help our schools and community. Happy New Year!
P.S. I am using Facebook very rarely now (I’m debating with whether I should keep an account at all), but remain active on Twitter @ginipupo If you want to read previous blog entries you can see them here. You can reach me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org