Statement on Public School Education by Thom Druffel
The character of a city can be measured by the way it spends its resources. There are few things more important to families and to the future of a city than the public school system. Education is the game changer. It doesn’t matter where you live. Every student deserves a great education and opportunity.
In Nashville, we have approximately 86,000 students in grades k-12, and there is $914.5 million in the FY 2019-20 budget for schools. This is close to one half of the $2.33 billion metro budget.
We need to ask ourselves why, despite the commitment of resources to mnps, the conditions and results don’t equate success.
Less than 33% of 3rd graders can read at grade level. This is one of the most important indicators of long term student success .
The School Board is dysfunctional and not aligned with the Mayor, Metro Council or the community.
Great teachers are the foundation of our student’s success but we turn over more than 700 every year. Teachers are underpaid and under supported.
There are tens of thousands of students and families at stake that deserve better quality schools for their money. Here is where I think we can work to get back on track.
Align all stakeholders for our student’s success.
There must be a direct conversation that supports solutions for the students and that aligns families, students, teachers, the school board, Metro Council, Mayor, community and education experts. We have one of the very best educational colleges in the US here in Nashville. Relying on education experts and being collaborative can bring great results. I have experienced success in doing did this with our high schools with the thematic academies. These academies are a public/private partnership and now a national model, and the program shows what can be done when we work together for a common goal.
Engage, hire and develop the very best teacher corps.
I believe our top mission is to build the best teacher corps in the country. We need to attract and retain the best teachers from local colleges and create a district where teachers, both locally trained and from other areas, would want to work. We must treat this job as the most important professional job – because it is. This means compensation changes and reducing excessive administration, testing and distractions. A culture of respect and community should permeate from council to classroom.
Build a better community network of schools that supports their community while respecting diversity.
Through fostering community involvement, we can better support neighborhood schools. We must engage regularly and meaningfully with the many stakeholders in our communities, especially parents and teachers, ensuring that their priorities and needs are represented. I am a proud parent, mentor and business leader who has the insight to bring about change and demonstrate how schools can thrive with proper leadership.
We do this by supporting and developing community outreach centers such as Backfield in Motion, creating a reading corps to help foster a generation of readers, and formulating solutions to create better opportunities for growth and development in our city for students and families.
Where I Come In For These Solutions
I am uniquely qualified to help kickstart these solutions. Outside of my many business and community leadership positions, I have been a mentor for at-risk children for over 30 years in the Big Brother Program and Boy Scouts. This has given me firsthand experience with the lives of our highest risk students.
I worked as a leader and partner for 10 years in building the new high school model with the Academies approach that is now used as a national model.
I have worked as the Special Olympics Tennis Coach for over 10 years and as the Treasurer of ARC Davidson County to develop jobs for people with disabilities.I have chaired the Business Hospitality Advisory Board for TSU and have been an Adjunct Professor for the past 5 years. I have also chaired the Greater Nashville Hospitality Association Education Committee where we brought in over $150k in scholarships and $20K in money to coach those with disabilities. Click & See What Channel 5 said about Thom.
With leadership, the council can support MNPS to develop programs for children with unique learning needs. I understand how to work well in a team and lead teams against strategic plans. This is the experience that is sorely needed. I have the maturity and experience to meet challenges in a collaborative manner.
FAILURE is not an option.