The director of Metro Nashville Schools delivered his first State of the Schools address Monday morning to about 200 people inside Creswell Middle Prep. Dr. Shawn Joseph's speech centered on big goals including literacy improvement, support for English language learners, and retaining top teachers.
"This is the biggest civil right we can give our children" Dr. Joseph said. "The ability to read, speak and comprehend."
Right now, just 34% of Metro third grade students are proficient in reading, and that number only increases to 41% for eighth grade students.
Dr. Joseph is asking for $3.4 million additional dollars to focus on literacy initiatives, including hiring a Literacy Teacher Development Specialist for every school. He also pointed out that those who struggle most with reading and language arts are those who are learning English as a second language.
And Nashville's number of ELL students is exploding.
"Every single child, from every corner of the world, deserves equitable chances to succeed in life," Dr. Joseph said.
He's asking for an additional $5.7 million to support ELL students. That money will pay for 30 new teachers, 20 new translators, afterschool tutoring, and summer school opportunities.
But Dr. Joseph said all of this relies on good leadership, which is why he's proposing ways to retain top teachers and better prepare principals.
"We can't expect high-quality teachers and employees to perform their best and then not pay them," Dr. Joseph said.
He's proposing 3% cost-of-living adjustment and a step increase on all salary schedules totaling $23 million.
Dr. Joseph is also implementing a "Principal Development Pipeline" to better prepare existing teachers and staff to possibly take on a leadership role. This comes after a year plagued by problems with some newly hired principals, including at Antioch High School, where students staged a walk out citing a list of grievances mostly aimed at Dr. Keiva Wiley.
But Dr. Joseph denies the new program is a response to those problems.
"Last year when I came into the district we hired 32 brand new principals. That is a daunting task for an organization that has 168," Dr. Joseph said. "We just want to make sure we're preparing people early and getting them ready."
These plans hinge on a budget that will soon go to Mayor Barry for adjustments. Barry introduced Dr. Joseph at the event, but mentioned new requests for funding far exceed new funding.
Dr. Joseph will present his full budget to Mayor Barry Thursday at 9:00 a.m.