Candidate Questionnaire | Nashville Now
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Candidate Questionnaire

District 9: Russelle Ann Bradbury

What motivated you to run for the Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) board of education?

I’m heavily invested in Nashville’s public schools because I have three elementary age children enrolled in our District 9 incredible zoned elementary school. I’m a collaborative idea generator with a speciality in nonprofits.


I decided to run as a first-time candidate for the MNPS school board because I believe:


  1. Equitable education to all children is our moral responsibility. After a decade researching nonprofits and schools, I know we cannot continue to perpetuate inequities present for so many students. I acknowledge Nashville public education’s challenges and will work tirelessly to equitably provide opportunities and resources to all students.
  2. This crisis has been a tiring, never ending rollercoaster. It has allowed society to recognize the value, service, and compassion of our amazing educators. Why then do we continue to pay them salaries on par to a shoe salesperson? Let’s bridge this gap and truly support our teachers.
  3. Children are our future. They deserve our best.
  4. The status quo must change. It’s time for new voices to bring inclusive and unbiased decisions to Metro schools. I will hear the voices of everyone, especially those that have been sidelined.

What do you believe are the primary and most critical roles and responsibilities of a school board member?

The MNPS school board serves to support, regulate, and advocate for leadership and policies that will provide the best possible educational outcomes, recognition and benefits for our beautiful city’s nearly 100,000 diverse and special public school students, educators and staff.


As a district representative, an MNPS school board member serves as a liaison between the specific district’s constituents, families, students, educators, and schools and MNPS leadership.


Board members should serve with integrity and make mission driven decisions based on what is best for the greater good.

What are your top priorities and suggested reforms for improving education in MNPS overall, and specifically in improving equity, excellence, and access for all students?



  • Acknowledge the multidimensional crisis.
  • Acknowledge the new normalcy is uncertainty.
  • Acknowledge the digital divide and work to bring digital and resource equity.
  • Support families, students, and educators with the resources, tools, and training essential for successful virtual learning for positive academic, social-emotional, safe and healthy outcomes.
  • Prioritize assessments for all children at each transition.




  • Advocate for policy and budgets that reallocate funds spent on unnecessary budget items like consumables to better compensate our hard-working, compassionate and talented educators.
  • Recognize education’s role in our future’s development with competitive salary and benefits.




  • Develop intentional focus groups of District 9 families, educators and students to gather feedback and identify culturally-specific concerns.
  • Support equitable, accessible and trauma informed social and emotional resources to meet students’ hierarchy of needs.
  • Support anti-racist and implicit bias professional development training for educators.

What does a highly effective and functioning school board look like to you?

As the governing body of the school district, the school board should operate with integrity, inclusivity, and cooperation to fulfill the mission of Metro Nashville Public Schools.


Board members represent their specific district, schools and constituents; continually pivoting between one-on-one communications and system management. School board members should acknowledge the imperfect human condition. The board should communicate with all stakeholders, including the other board members and MNPS leadership, with respect, intention and laser beam focus on equality and appropriately meeting the academic and socio-emotional needs for all of our students.


The elected leaders are distinguished community members and need to serve beyond their personal views. The board needs to listen to all voices, and deliberately try to learn from diverse perspectives.

Please rank the following school board responsibilities in order of priority, with the first being the most important and last being the least important.

  1. Promoting continuous improvement and holding the system accountable
  2. Transparently informing and engaging the public
  3. Allocating resources appropriately and encouraging fiscal responsibility
  4. Establishing an overarching plan and direction for the school district
  5. Hiring and managing an effective Director of Schools

A key responsibility of the school board is to hire and manage the director of schools. Over the past five years, MNPS has cycled through three directors and two interim directors. What do you think is the School Board’s role to ensure effective and stable leadership going forward?

I think it’s important we think of our relationship with the director of schools as intentional partners and collaborators. Over the years, I have heard a lot of “the board reports to the director of schools” or the “director of schools reports to the board.” In reality, it’s a team. We need to work together thoughtfully, collaboratively, and with focus on our mission to effectively serve our students.


The investment put into hiring a director should parallel the amount of investment given to supporting the leadership. The board can support the director of schools through public acknowledgement of successes, and direct, honest and objective communications concerning challenges. The director of schools should be recognized for their steadfast commitment to delivering the mission and serving the Metro Nashville Public Schools with integrity, equity and justice.

Board members are responsible for adopting the annual budget to provide the necessary funding to enable the school system to carry out its functions. In this time of extremely tight resources, what are your thoughts on where efficiencies can be found and where limited dollars must be invested to produce the best results for ALL students?

Let’s acknowledge the economic crisis beyond Metro schools. The nation, state, city, and school district are critically underfunded. Families, educators and students are short on funds. Job losses, closures, and the sudden societal shift for some into new, forced, and uncomfortable “work from home” situations has severely impacted every system’s organization, including Metro Schools. Each system needs to realign its priorities around people over profit before this crisis destroys the strength, compassion and resilience of families, children and systems.


Until we are aware of the long term economic impact that COVID 19 and the subsequent state of the nation will have on our economy, all systems should implement and withhold “no extras” policies. Metro schools should avoid any and all large expenditures, such as consumable items, curriculum contracts and capital improvements such as new buildings and facility renovations. Instead, the focus should pivot to retaining, clearly communicating, and supporting educators, families and support services. If we cannot provide appropriate recognition and support for educators, we should be prepared to lose some of Nashville’s best assets.

There has been some controversy around the role of public charter schools, yet many of MNPS’s best performing schools are charters. What is your opinion of charter schools and what role should they play in the MNPS system?

It is a disservice to generalize charter schools. How charters are run, funded, and overseen varies dramatically from state to state, school to school. In his book “Charter Schools at the Crossroads”, Dr. C. Finn concludes, “The charter track record can best be described as stunningly uneven.”


Enrollment statistics indicate middle-class white people are not touched by charter schools; so they don’t support them. Seems easy to hate charter schools when you have a good zoned option. It’s harder to oppose charters when your child is locked into a failing school because of their address.


When a district offers “choice”, the choice must be equitable to all or the public education offered is unjust. The limited number of lottery and magnet schools do not equitably serve the city’s students. Some Nashville charter schools have provided a viable alternative to a failing zoned school; aligning with the mission of Metro Schools in delivering great public education to students. Ultimately, families know what is best for their children and I support families making the choice.


Today I do not think it advisable to approve any major expenditures; new charter schools are no exception.

Past MPNS school boards have been criticized for internal turmoil and public division. What do school board members need to do to ensure the board stays focused on student achievement?

  • Acknowledge the imperfect human.
  • Focus on the mission: delivering a great public education to every child, everyday.
  • Maintain integrity as a public servant and be a representative for children.
  • Frame every conversation on student achievement. Filter irrelevant and/or special interest topics. When things veer off topic, refocus.
  • Communicate with dignity, cultural awareness and respect.
  • Include all schools and every student when supporting policy; not only those in failing or succeeding schools.
  • Understand that one size does not fit all.
  • Promote people over profit philosophy.
  • Take ego out of the equation. Reduce competition. Board members all want the same thing: to give children the best public education possible.

How can school board members improve transparency and keep families and community members better informed and engaged?

As one of nine elected Metro schools board members, serving one ninth of some 86,000 students is an incredible privilege in a city as diverse and talented as Nashville.


I shudder hearing stories of what came before, evidence to the true crisis Metro schools have been in for over a decade. Nashville is not one size fits all. Regardless of how or where a student is educated; educators should be valued and supported, students should be taught and celebrated, and families should be included in the conversations.


This is not happening in Nashville—students, schools, communities, leaders and local politicians are in constant competition. Competition not for being inclusive, or representing multiple perspectives, instead competition for power, money and influence.


We have to get serious and act boldly to repair distrust that has developed over years of inequitable decisions. To me that means building culturally appropriate focus groups with families and stakeholders to intentionally listen to needs and barriers to success. We must keep everyone involved in the conversation to provide insight into future policy considerations. We are better together.

What is the role of annual assessments related to system accountability, and in evaluating the progress of schools, classrooms, and teachers?

Business is not as usual in Nashville. COVID’s tremendous disruption to schools has forced education leaders to rethink how to evaluate accountability beyond relying on one-size-fits-all, arbitrary end of year academic assessments. It is time to think beyond purely summative assessments, which create a punitive, competitive, assimilist, culture for both educators and students, and often disproportionately impact students of color. We should advocate for assessments that support learning and growth for our students, our educators and our schools. To meet the needs of all stakeholders, I envision a collaborative assessment connecting educators, support staff, families and students—similar to case management and IEP teams—to gage multidimensional student-growth and challenges through a whole-child assessment.


Incentive based assessments do not align with an equitable, people over profit educational philosophy. Let’s fix it while we’re down. I have optimism that a newly created, intentionally collaborative assessment will compliment this new normal and enable teachers to teach at the student’s level without worrying about the test. There is enough to worry about.

With early school closings this past spring due to COVID-19 and the uncertainties heading into fall – what ideas do you have to urgently and immediately assess and address the likely learning loss that students have experienced and may continue to experience as we wrestle with this pandemic?

Metro Schools were in a quieter crisis before March. It’s July, mid- season of increased uncertainty, unknown, fear, and anxiety (worry). There is urgency for informed, independent thinking citizens at every level. This societal storm system continues to fuel innovative, collaborative, policy making candidates like me with energy, hope and determination. I am mission focused. Now more than ever, we must continue to deliver the best public education to every child, everyday, even virtually.


I acknowledge the courage of Dr. Adrienne Battle and district leadership in deciding to postpone the in-person re-entry. Metro Schools bear a great weight in holding responsibility for the health and safety of 100,000 employees and students of Metro Schools; I am proud of this safe, rational decision. Dr. Battle and team have prepared a comprehensive and continuous learning plan that has been carefully developed with every student in mind, especially those often sidelined. To succeed, we must remain flexible, remain engaged, and advocate for heavy emphasis on socio-emotional lessons and support. We are better together, we are all trying our best. Let’s go one day at a time.