Bashing public schools and the teachers who work for them is fashionable in some circles, but you won’t hear me complain about Nolensville Elementary School, or Williamson County Schools in general.
What motivates me to say this right now are a pair of recent events highlighting the dedication of the teachers, staff & student in our public schools, as well as a profile of the county’s superintendent which ran in one of the local papers.
Nolensville Elementary School’s Math Night
First up was the recent Math Night at Nolensville Elementary School (@wcsNES on Twitter), on Thursday, a night full of games, activities, and events that get kids thinking about various mathematical processes. Not only were the school’s teachers & staff part of the effort, but 15 students from Ravenwood High School also volunteered to help lead the way that evening. When I talked to Ms. Rucker (who also leads a Math Club which meets before school), she estimated that roughly 500 kids came through the school that night.
Video from that night is available on the WCS website. Seriously, check it out then come back for the rest – I’ll wait.
Brentwood High School’s Mini-Mu Math Competition
On Saturday, Brentwood High School hosted their Mini-Mu Math Competition, in which selected 4th & 5th graders from various elementary schools throughout the county came together and competed on two especially challenging tests, with medals and trophies for the highest scorers. Teachers gave up their Saturday morning to be there with their students, some of the kids from Brentwood High were there to help pull the event off, and in the end you had a bunch of kids who had fun together and were celebrated as genuine “mathletes”.
Public recognition like that is usually confined to the athletic field, but when it comes to preparing our kids for the realities of adult life, academic accomplishments are perhaps where we should be placing more emphasis. I appreciate the fact that so many people put in the effort outside of regular hours to make this happen.
Leadership Stars at the Top
Leading the way is Dr. Mike Looney (@wcsDirofSchools), the superintendent of Williamson County Schools, and a guy with a remarkable story to tell. Just check out this interview in the Nashville City Paper, outlining Looney’s background as a troubled youth, and how a life-transforming stint in the Marines helped develop him into a leader. Perhaps most impressive to me, however, is the perspective which that life story gives Looney as an educational administrator:
You ran away from home as a kid to escape abuse. What was life like as a runaway?
I ended up in juvenile detention as a habitual runaway. During all of those episodes, I would get sent back home, and I would run away again.
But you managed to continue your education during this. Was school a form of stability?
Actually, it was a source of food and friends. And honestly, I often relied upon friends for shelter. I would get to stay at one of my friend’s house for a week or so. Then they would get tired of me and I would move on to another friend’s house. So school was a source of stability.
How did this view shape your view on public education?
I found that the system was not attentive to me. I was the smelly kid, I was the kid who didn’t have washed hair or combed hair, and those things went unnoticed or unattended to. And I thought, how could that be? And it gave me empathy for students who need a little extra lift and a little extra attention, and frankly, love.
Public education is incredibly challenging – there are kids with a staggering array of abilities and needs, and all deserve a shot at realizing their potential. It’s about serving not just the athletic or academic standouts, but the kid with unkempt hair and troubles at home, too. You never know, it might just be that kid that grows up, comes back and end up running the whole show.