Candidate Questionnaire | Nashville Now
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Candidate Questionnaire

District 5: Christiane Buggs

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

Before running for my first term, I was a middle school teacher who was seeing my Level 5 priority school being taken over “the state” without much input from educators. The parents and families we served we nervous and confused, but we did not have consistent information to offer them. I knew my tenure as a classroom teacher would be made more impactful if I could use it as a basis to amplify my teacher voice and the voices of those around me who were otherwise also disenfranchised. Now running for my second term, I have added “parent” to my personal resume. Being the single parent of a Black boy in a zip code where traditionally lower performing schools are the norm, I know I have a unique opportunity to continue amplifying the voices of the disenfranchised.

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

The school board is tasked with overseeing and evaluating the Director of Schools, monitoring the alignment of the strategic plan to the district budget, and managing policies that help do both. Another practical, yet lesser discussed responsibility of the board is to act as a community liaison considering that we are elected to serve. When parents or other community members have questions, it is our job to at the very least e responsive, guide them toward answers using appropriate protocols, and engage our constituents with regular updates as appropriate and feasible. We tie this all n a bow by advocating for the resources that will help us accomplish all of the above goals.

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?

Nashville has a history of dismissing the negative ans long-term impacts of systemic racism. We do our neighbors a continued disservice by not addressing the part public education plays in adding to inequity. My top priority is focusing on how to better address the roots of inequities vs the symptoms. With that in mind, I am currently focused on developing an anti-racims/bias policy that will mandate bias training in all MNPS staff. I will further support this effort by engaging with community members in pushing a city-wide equity agenda in whatever forms it takes.


I also am prioritizing constituent engagement by better connecting with those neighbors I represent.


I will certainly continue to advocate for an increase in budget allocations for MNPS. Our students, staff and families continue to be asked to do more with less and it unfortunately ties back to underling racist intentions. I seek to better engage community members who support oppressive budget allocations and empower community members who have historically been left out of budge conversations.

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

An effective school board is one that leads by example by prioritizing its own continuous learning/Professional Development. As humans, our own biases and perspectives should continuously be pushed and updated. An effective board is also one that engages in civil discord, moving with majority votes even when conversations are tense. An effective board acts as the guide and evaluator of the professional(s) it oversees while remembering not to usurp power(s) designated for those hired to drive work forward.

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

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?

Understanding and acknowledging the role of the community elected board vs the roles of the professionals hired to drive the work. The school board would also do well to regularly review the strategic plan and compare it to the conversations being had around the board table.

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?

The unpopular opinion in more affluent circles is that MNPS has reduced its budget significantly in comparison to what has actually been needed to support student growth. We have worked as a system to find as many efficiencies as possible over at least the past four years; so much so that we began reducing fidelity supports and community engagement resources. Considering the different types of trauma students were already experiencing in a city has not prioritized “other people’s kids”, we need to accept that results will not increase without first addressing the well being of our youngest community members. We have to prioritize wellness checks, health, food services, and social emotional development. Continuing to disregard students who do not fit into a norm will only lead to lopsided results, increased inequities based on race and thus class, and low proficiency scores.

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?

Having worked in a chart and traditional school, and having graduated from a magnet school, my largest point is that Nashville has not resourced equity with the same fervor we have resourced choice. Charter schools are like any other school type in that they are all different. Charter schools are not a silver bullet solution and opening new ones without supporting students who do not in any way engage in choice leaves most of our most disenfranchised students even more disenfranchised. We as a city continue to have conversations that only focus on symptoms as opposed to real issues facing ALL of our students. Limited resources in a city where the cost of living climbs monthly would be a better focus. Diminishing supports for teacher prep programs and licensure restraints would also be a better focus. Shifts in funding and conversations around why communities are not continuously invested in would help us see the proficiency and growth score increases we SAY we want for ALL students.

I have no ill-will toward charter schools and support every single school in my district no matter how their type.

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?

Remember the job we were elected to do and focus our conversations on students instead of adults.

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

Respond to constituents even when we don’t agree with them and engage in community activities so neighbors feel comfortable approaching us.

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

Assessments are intended to be used as a guide for educators. They SHOULD be used to guide instruction, provide insight into professional development suggestions, and inform pacing. Assessments would ideally be used to evaluate and guide teacher growth as opposed to typically punitive application.

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?

I am first focused on student well being and engagement considering the number of students living at or below poverty levels during this trying time. After we rebuild the trust of students and reacquaint them with the proverbial new normal, we should continue using a best practice of regularly assessing student knowledge in informal ways. It should also be assumed that reviews of the past year’s content will be the standard.