NASHVILLE, TN — A professional educator leading one of the four Historically Black Colleges and Universities here is impressed with Metro’s public school system and its leader.
“We are fortunate to have Shawn Joseph working here,” Fisk University President Dr. Kevin Rome said during the Tennessee Tribune’s recent forum on education in the black community.
“We have someone who cares about our children, who cares about black kids, and who can articulate it,” Dr. Rome told nearly 150 people in the sanctuary of Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church on Oct. 28.
During the 90-minute program, Dr. Rome said he could speak critically about circumstances facing Dr. Shawn Joseph, director of Metro Nashville Public Schools, because, as president of Fisk, the county doesn’t pay him. See “Tribune Hosts Real Talk on Education for Blacks” on this web site for Rome’s sharp words.
But when speaking about his own family’s experience, Rome does so with good humor and praise.
“I have two children in the system and we’ve been more satisfied with the experience of our students, our kids, here with just the passion of the teachers and the principals of our schools,” Fisk’s president said.
“And I have to tell my wife, ‘If I get one more text or call from the school;’ because they text and call … I’ve just never seen teachers in a school so engaged.
“I know some of you are out there [in the audience, but] I get so many texts and calls that … ‘I’m going to have to block them.’ Seriously… So I know there are passionate teachers and principals who are out there …
“But that’s not the story we see on TV,” he said on a tangent from the larger issue. “So we have to tell the story that we’re not seeing there.
“It’s about the family,” he said. “It’s a partnership. We can’t blame schools if we’re not doing our job.”
As for how parents and city residents can do that job, Tennessee Tribune publisher Rosetta Miller-Perry offers a challenge: Adopt-a-School. The program is successful across America and in other Tennessee counties. It should be used here. More reports are coming on that.
Fisk’s president continued, “I’ve lived in a lot of places with a lot of … supervisors …. who were clearly not focused on the success of our students.”
He explained the contrast during remarks responding to this question: What do parents need to do to get children prepared for college or a university like Fisk?
Parental involvement is key, he said. Decisions on where high school students continue their education should be made between parents and the student.
“A lot of students major in fun and end up back home,” Rome said. At HBCU’s “our students are served in a different way … and they get some support that they may not get at other places.”
Rome says wants black high school graduates to attend HBCUs.
“Those who attend HBCUs are more likely to go on to get graduate degrees,” he said. “Many of the black doctors, lawyers, judges and elected officials attended HBCs.”
This article originally appeared in The Tennessee Tribune.