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  • Positive Momentum For Resetting Charter School Conversation

    by Marc Hill | Aug 29, 2014
    What a difference two years can make. In 2012, the Metro school board was consumed for nearly a year with the Great Hearts charter school application, a standoff between the school board and the State of Tennessee that made everyone involved look bad. Most galling, to many business leaders, was the $3.4 million in state funds that Metro Schools lost as the result of the fiasco.

    So, what’s changed between 2012 and 2014? For one, after more than a decade of reacting to whatever charter school applicants happen to propose, Metro Schools is now asking potential charter operators to consider the district’s strategic needs. Perhaps more importantly, it appears that the school district administration and a majority of the board now recognize that the district’s lowest-performing schools are not improving fast enough, and that the charter sector will need to play a greater role in turning these schools around.

    The most recent step forward for Metro Schools on this issue took place on Aug. 21, when the school board voted to approve the amended application of STRIVE Academy, a charter middle school proposed for the McGavock cluster that was initially rejected in June. The Metro School board’s recent vote means ...
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    Category: Education
  • Education Committee Looking Forward To a Great Year

    by Rita McDonald | Aug 29, 2014
    The Chamber’s Education Committee convened for their first meeting of the 2014-2015 school year on Aug. 26. Committee members are volunteer leaders in the Chamber’s multi-year strategy to improve K-12 public schools.

    Members heard from Chris Henson, Metro Schools' CFO, and Dr. Julie McCargar, executive director of federal programs and grant management, about the 2014-2015 MNPS budget.

    Henson and McCargar provided an overview of Tennessee's Basic Education Program (BEP) -- the funding formula through which state education dollars are generated and distributed to Tennessee schools -- as well as the process by which schools receive local funding. They also discussed the budget process, including how it is planned, how expenditures are allocated, and current and future capital projects. The budget, once created by MNPS, must be approved by the mayor and Metro Council. McCargar also discussed a number of federal revenue sources for MNPS, including grants such as Race to the Top and Title I dollars.

    The Education Committee also met new school board members Tyese Hunter (District 6) and Mary Pierce (District 8), who were elected in August and will be sworn in at the school board's first September meeting. They both shared their eagerness to help improve Metro ...
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  • Freshman Career Fair Set for Oct. 29

    by Rita McDonald | Aug 28, 2014

    Fair allows thousands of ninth-graders to explore career choices

    The "My Future, My Way" Career Exploration Fair provides an avenue for high school freshmen in Metro Nashville Public Schools to explore a breadth of career areas. This is a first, important step to helping them understand how high school prepares them for college and career, and how the business partners engaged with the Academies of Nashville assist with that preparation.

    This year’s sixth annual career fair will host approximately 7,000 ninth-graders from MNPS’ zoned high schools, magnet and choice schools and charter high schools on Wednesday, October 29 at the Music City Center in downtown Nashville.  

    Prior to attending the career fair, students will have completed career exploration research, guided by their school faculty, in preparation for their visits. They will have also learned about professional dress and behavior. Once at the career fair, they will speak with business volunteers, ask questions, and participate in hands-on activities. In addition to the career fair and the career exploration research, students also participate in an essay contest, a social media campaign, and other post-fair activities to reinforce what they’ve learned and to help them continue to think regularly about their ...

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    Category: Education
  • Business Leaders Help Guide High School Academies

    by Whitney Weeks | Aug 27, 2014
    Four times each academic year, nearly 120 supporters of the Academies of Nashville review achievement data, celebrate student successes, and determine how the local business and nonprofit communities can best continue their support of the 42 career academies found in Metro Nashville Public Schools’ 12 zoned high schools. Divided into five industry clusters that are each supported by a Partnership Council, these 120 supporters represent nearly 100 businesses and non-profit organizations. Each Partnership Council is led by a volunteer chair. Collectively, the councils are managed by the Nashville Area Chamber, with additional support provided by the PENCIL Foundation and MNPS.

    The Partnership Councils play an integral role in supporting the Academies of Nashville. These industry experts ensure academies and their career pathways are aligned with regional workforce projections, and that all students are well-prepared to earn appropriate industry certifications or dual-enrollment course credit before graduation. Partnership Council members also help provide academy teaching teams with opportunities for work-based externships, giving teachers valuable experiences and a chance to engage in lesson development with industry professionals.

    With the engagement of Partnership Council member volunteers, MNPS’s academies model is able to work effectively and authentically. The Chamber is proud to support the work ...
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    Category: Education
  • Sumner County Leaders Partner with Nashville Chamber to Focus on Postsecondary Attainment

    by Laura Moore | Aug 15, 2014
    Middle Tennessee has a math problem. By 2021, we are projected to be short 35,000 workers to fill the jobs that are coming to the region. Part of solving that equation will mean finding new and innovative ways to get students and adults to pursue education and training after high school. That was the message that united a group of leaders from Sumner County at a meeting last month hosted by Sumner County Executive Anthony Holt, Gallatin Mayor Jo Ann Graves and Portland Mayor Ken Wilber.

    The meeting was a follow-up to the 2013 Nashville Region’s Vital Signs report, which tracks key issues that impact the region’s economic well-being. One of the key findings from the 2013 report is the need to increase the number of adults with postsecondary degrees across Middle Tennessee. Leaders from higher education, Sumner County Schools, Forward Sumner, local chambers of commerce and area businesses, as well as state representatives and elected officials from Goodlettsville, Westmoreland and White House, participated in the discussion. The session was facilitated by Vital Signs Action Team leaders Ron Corbin, principal, RBBC Holdings, and Joey Hatch, co-COO, Skanska.

    Over the last few years, Sumner County has taken significant steps to increase ...
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    Category: Policy
  • Pick Your Nashville

    by Rita McDonald | Aug 12, 2014
    As you may know, the Chamber is a steering committee member and a pillar of NashvilleNext, the process to update the city’s 25-year master plan. For the last two years, we have worked with the Metro Planning Department and leaders across the county to find out what Nashville residents want for the future. Now, we’re wrapping up another phase of the public input process, known as Pick Your Nashville, and we want to make sure you're part of it.

    Based on your input in previous phases, the Planning Department has drawn up three “Futures” that affect everything from housing to economic development. We’re asking you to choose which Future you prefer by taking the NashvilleNext online survey or attending one of the remaining NashvilleNext Lounges, where you can speak with city planners about what’s important to you.

    These Futures offer very different versions of how Nashville could grow. We could continue our current patterns under “Business as Usual,” or we could create hubs of economic activity throughout the county under “Centers with Adjacent Infill.” If you’d prefer to see a stronger downtown that branches out along the county’s transportation arteries, “Downtown and Pikes” ...
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    Category: General
  • Back-to-School Is the Perfect Time to Get Involved

    by Whitney Weeks | Aug 01, 2014
    Next Wednesday, Aug. 6, marks the first day of school for Metro Nashville Public Schools students. For my household, the beginning of the school year means new notebooks, sharpened pencils, and graphing calculators. For students enrolled in the Academies of Nashville, it means career-focused field trips, college tours and ACT words-of-the-day. Whatever their age or grade, next week marks a new opportunity for all students to excel. This time of year is equally important, though, for those of us long past our primary and secondary education days. A successful public school system plays a vital role in our community, and it behooves us all to ensure students do well.

    Strong engagement from the business community is critical to the growth and improvement of our public schools. There are many ways businesses – large and small – can connect in a meaningful way. From providing school or classroom supplies to making it easy for staff to serve as volunteer mentors or tutors, hundreds of businesses in our community support MNPS every day. The Omni Hotel conducts a hotel-wide back to school supply drive. LP Building Products and Griffin Technology are just two of the Nashville companies that host summer externships for ...
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    Category: Education
  • Join the Transportation Conversation

    by Rita McDonald | Jul 24, 2014
    As Nashville grows, it's more important than ever that we, as a community, develop long-term solutions that help residents, workers and visitors access our city. The Chamber has made transit and mobility one of our top priorities because we know it is crucial to our region's continued prosperity.

    We encourage you to attend the NashvilleNext Community Conversation about transportation on Tuesday, Aug. 5, 4-6 p.m., at Municipal Auditorium, 417 Fourth Ave. N. The special guest speaker will be Gabe Klein of the Urban Land Institute, who has served as transportation chief for Chicago and Washington, D.C.

    The Nashville Area Chamber is a member of the NashvilleNext steering committee, a group leading a strategic planning process that will guide our city's growth through 2040. As city planners frame policies that will guide our growth for the next 25 years, it's essential for them to hear from local leaders like you. Please plan to participate in this meeting. You can RSVP for the event here, and explore different options to arrive at the event here.

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    Category: Transit
  • SuccessPAC Endorses Candidates for the Metropolitan Board of Public Education

    by Marc Hill | Jul 21, 2014
    SuccessPAC, the political action committee created by the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce for school board elections, has announced its support for four Metro school board candidates in the Aug. 7 election.

    As previously discussed on this blog, this year's school board elections are a pivotal moment for the future of Metro Nashville Public Schools. Because Director of Schools Dr. Jesse Register's contract expires June 30, 2015, chances are good that the school board convening after this August’s election will be responsible for selecting Dr. Register's replacement.

    Due to its status as a nonprofit membership organization, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce does not endorse candidates for political office. As a political action committee, SuccessPAC helps identify highly qualified candidates for the Metropolitan Board of Public Education. To determine its endorsements for this year, the SuccessPAC board conducted its most extensive vetting process to date. Board members interviewed all candidates who qualified for the ballot across the four districts up for election. In addition, all candidates completed a SuccessPAC questionnaire.

    The committee announced its endorsements following the four candidate forums sponsored by the Chamber, the Metropolitan Nashville Education Association and the Urban League of Middle Tennessee.

    SuccessPAC-endorsed candidates are:
    District ...
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    Category: Education
  • 2014 Legislative Scorecard Details Chamber's Advocacy Efforts

    by Adam Lister | Jul 10, 2014
    The Nashville Area Chamber is proud to release our third annual Legislative Scorecard, which reports how elected officials in the Nashville region supported the needs and priorities of the business community. A printed copy of the scorecard will be mailed to each member company this week.

    Throughout the year, our policy team works closely with elected officials and other leaders to advocate for an environment where businesses can thrive and the region can prosper. Each year, the Chamber develops a state and local legislative agenda based on feedback from our members in our annual policy survey.

    The 2014 Legislative Scorecard details the Chamber’s advocacy efforts to advance four specific community priorities:
    1. An environment where business can prosper;
    2. Talent development of the region’s workforce;
    3. Quality of life that attracts and retains residents and workers;
    4. Regional efforts to ensure economic prosperity.

    The 2014 legislative session was another good one for business in Tennessee. This year, the legislature took action supporting 83 percent of the Chamber’s agenda items. Key priorities in the second year of the 108th General Assembly included preserving the continued implementation of Tennessee’s Common Core State Standards, more equitable employer experience ratings for unemployment taxes, automatically closing failing charter schools, ...
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    Category: Policy
  • Positive Momentum For Resetting Charter School Conversation

    by Marc Hill | Aug 29, 2014
    What a difference two years can make. In 2012, the Metro school board was consumed for nearly a year with the Great Hearts charter school application, a standoff between the school board and the State of Tennessee that made everyone involved look bad. Most galling, to many business leaders, was the $3.4 million in state funds that Metro Schools lost as the result of the fiasco.

    So, what’s changed between 2012 and 2014? For one, after more than a decade of reacting to whatever charter school applicants happen to propose, Metro Schools is now asking potential charter operators to consider the district’s strategic needs. Perhaps more importantly, it appears that the school district administration and a majority of the board now recognize that the district’s lowest-performing schools are not improving fast enough, and that the charter sector will need to play a greater role in turning these schools around.

    The most recent step forward for Metro Schools on this issue took place on Aug. 21, when the school board voted to approve the amended application of STRIVE Academy, a charter middle school proposed for the McGavock cluster that was initially rejected in June. The Metro School board’s recent vote means that STRIVE Academy will be overseen by local officials and the academic results of its students will count in Metro’s totals, as opposed to being authorized by the state board of education under new legislation adopted earlier in the year. It also means that MNPS avoids a charter school appeals confrontation with the state this school year, leaving some other Tennessee districts to be the first to experience the new process. It was a difficult vote with legitimate arguments on both sides, and board members Anna Shepherd, Jo Ann Brannon and Cheryl Mayes are to be commended for not letting a tough re-election battle against pro-charter challengers drive their decision making.

    Some observers have suggested that the school board’s eventual approval of STRIVE Academy has diminished the ability of Metro Schools to guide future charter growth in Nashville. These folks reason that future applicants will ignore future charter RFPs because the STRIVE Academy application was approved by the board, even though it fell outside the parameters of a board resolution passed in November 2013 calling only for charter applications addressing elementary students in South Nashville and conversions of low-performing schools. We would disagree with that assessment, and would consider Metro Schools’ first-ever request for charter proposals to be a success. After all, four charter applications that largely fit the parameters of the board’s resolution were approved in their initial review with the school board in June.

    The real lesson from the school district’s first attempt to take a more strategic approach to charter applications is to avoid relying on the threat of denying an application. Since Tennessee’s charter school law was first passed in 2002, the state board of education has always been the final decider of application appeals, and the criteria for what constitutes an acceptable charter application are governed by statute, not the preferences of local boards of education. If Metro Schools wishes to continue being proactive, it should instead develop a charter school RFP process so laden with incentives that it becomes an offer high-quality operators simply can’t refuse.

    A year ago, board member Will Pinkston floated the idea of MNPS offering capital grants to charter applicants that met the district’s strategic needs. That would have been an extraordinary incentive, since securing a school facility and the related financing consistently rank as the top challenge for any would-be charter operator. In the end, neither capital grants nor any other incentive idea materialized this past year—a clear opportunity to improve the district’s RFP approach during the next authorization cycle.

    Recognizing that it’s always easy to improve a new process in hindsight, the next charter RFP process should also include input from community stakeholders and charter operators on the front end, before coming to the board for a vote. The feedback that is offered may or may not be incorporated into the final product, but just taking the time to consider a broader range of perspectives beyond the district office at Bransford Avenue increases the likelihood of greater buy-in. It’s an approach that’s well-suited to the board’s recent commitment to community engagement.

    The Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce supports our Metro school board taking a strategic approach to future charter school growth. The concept was endorsed in our 2012 Education Report Card, and we commended the district for taking an important step in that direction at our 2013 Education Report Card presentation last December. We encourage the newly elected school board beginning its work together on Sept. 9 to build on the experience of the past year by creating an improved charter RFP process that models the best in district-charter collaboration.

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  • Entrepreneurial Spotlight: Beth Chase, president and CEO, c3/consulting

    by Stephanie Coleman | Aug 07, 2014
    With the application deadline approaching for the 2014 NEXT Awards, we asked Beth Chase, president and CEO of c3/consulting, to share her insights on Nashville’s business community and entrepreneurial environment. Beth won the NEXT Woman Entrepreneur of the Year in 2011 and NEXT Entrepreneur of the Year in 2013.

    Why did you choose Nashville for your business?

    Nashville’s been in the spotlight recently -- and rightfully so. I believed in Nashville long before Nashville was cool, AND I’ll continue to believe in Nashville because this city warrants it. Why?

    • Thriving business community: Nashville’s economy is supported by the unique combination of Fortune 500 companies and entrepreneurial organizations that are headquartered here. The country (and world) is beginning to understand the ecosystem that committed individuals are building in Nashville to support innovation and new business development. The secret’s out, and it’s easy to see why more and more companies are considering moving here. Even better, it’s exciting to see them thrive when they do decide to make the move.

    • Committed community: I serve on the boards of a number of community organizations, and my fellow c3 team members serve on at least 100 others. We live in a community that understands “community” begins with us. We recognize that we have challenges to be solved, but we also have the commitment required to tackle those challenges.

    • Deep talent pool: I sit amazed at the talents and abilities of the c3 team and the various business and community teams in which we partner. This town is overflowing with commitment and creativity, and we are all fortunate enough to prosper from it. I am often reminded that “A thoughtful, committed team of individuals can change the world.” Nashville, itself, proves that is true.

    • Unlimited potential: I moved to Nashville more than 30 years ago to attend Vanderbilt, and I never left. When I think back to my first years in Nashville, I must admit I would have never imagined either this city or I would be where we are today. Those of you who know me well will also know that rather than be satisfied with the status quo, that progress only drives me to imagine where we can go in the future.

    • It just fits: Nashville fits me. I’ve raised my family here. I’ve started a few businesses here. My life and my loves are here. I love to travel, but I love returning home even more. I can’t imagine returning to anywhere better than Nashville.
    We are fortunate to live and work in a city that is grounded by its sense of community and is committed to helping each other reach our potential. As a result, we live in a thriving, creative and exciting town. It doesn’t get much better than that.

    The deadline to apply for a NEXT Award is Friday, August 15. Visit nextawardsnashville.com to learn more about the awards and submit your application.


    c3/consulting has been a Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce member since 2008.
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  • Entrepreneurial Spotlight: Clint Smith

    by Stephanie Coleman | Jul 24, 2014
    With the application deadline approaching for the 2014 NEXT Awards, we asked Clint Smith, co-founder and CEO of Emma, to provide a glimpse into his company’s growth trajectory and share his insights on the importance of Nashville’s entrepreneurial environment. Clint won the NEXT Digital Media & Entertainment Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2011.

    Q: How has Emma grown since you started the company?
    A: When we started, there were just two of us working out of someone else's office in a pair of cubicles for which we'd bartered website design work. By the end of this year, we will likely have around 150 people on staff. So in sheer people terms, it's a much different place than it was years ago, and the team today is able to do so much more than we could as a small startup. And nowadays it seems like each person who joins Emma is even more impressive than the last one (just don't tell the last one!), so to think that we're growing in talent as we're growing in size is very exciting.

    Q: What has surprised you the most about starting and running your own company?
    A: Just how often things basically boil down to a seating chart. We joke about that, but it's true - so much of our ability to move forward comes down to having the right people in the right seats, and then making sure the seats are (figuratively, if not sometimes literally) arranged in a way that leads to good chemistry and collaboration. I'm also surprised by how many people prefer using a chair in the shape of a bouncy ball. I feel like somewhere, the bouncy-ball seat maker is laughing at all of us.

    Q: Why did you choose Nashville for your business?
    A: It's a little bit like the question from Fletch in which Gail Stanwyk asks Fletch why he had his lunch delivered to her cabana and he says, "Because I knew that's where my mouth would be." We were Vanderbilt and Sewanee grads, and our mouths (and bodies and families) were already in Nashville, so this is just where we happened to be. Luckily, it turned out to be a great place to raise a family and a business and has only gotten better since.

    Q: Why is a strong entrepreneurial climate important for Nashville’s economic growth?
    A: A city, like a company, is as good (or only as good) as the people who comprise it. And smart, creative, interesting, ambitious people want to be in a place that encourages those qualities and supports them in doing meaningful things. Those people, scattered among the already highly successful companies in Nashville, streaming in from other places, and starting businesses that will help spur the next wave of innovation and success for the city, are exactly why Nashville is getting the attention it is these days.

    Q: What advice do you have for emerging entrepreneurs?
    A: Be crystal-clear in your goals as early as possible, personally and as a company. Looking back, we probably stumbled into things a little more than we should have, and while too much thinking and planning early isn't always a good thing, knowing exactly where you want to go over time makes everything else - whom to hire or partner with, where to focus your efforts and resources, how to measure success along the way - a lot easier. That, and don't buy a chair in the shape of a bouncy ball. Those are silly.

    Q: You won NEXT Digital Media & Entertainment Entrepreneur of the Year in 2011. What does this award mean to you?
    A: We're all so heads-down in the entrepreneurial world - always focused on building and improving and growing and the future and what's coming around the bend - that we don't often take time to pause and reflect. I think awards like this allow us to do that - to just take a minute (or an evening, in this case) to remember how good we've got it when we get to do meaningful work with awesome people - and to be inspired to go out and do even better. The NEXT award was definitely one of those moments.

    The deadline to apply for a 2014 NEXT Award is Friday, August 15. Visit nextawardsnashville.com to learn more about the awards and submit your application.


    Emma has been a Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce member since 2002.
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  • SuccessPAC Endorses Candidates for the Metropolitan Board of Public Education

    by Marc Hill | Jul 21, 2014
    SuccessPAC, the political action committee created by the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce for school board elections, has announced its support for four Metro school board candidates in the Aug. 7 election.

    As previously discussed on this blog, this year's school board elections are a pivotal moment for the future of Metro Nashville Public Schools. Because Director of Schools Dr. Jesse Register's contract expires June 30, 2015, chances are good that the school board convening after this August’s election will be responsible for selecting Dr. Register's replacement.

    Due to its status as a nonprofit membership organization, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce does not endorse candidates for political office. As a political action committee, SuccessPAC helps identify highly qualified candidates for the Metropolitan Board of Public Education. To determine its endorsements for this year, the SuccessPAC board conducted its most extensive vetting process to date. Board members interviewed all candidates who qualified for the ballot across the four districts up for election. In addition, all candidates completed a SuccessPAC questionnaire.

    The committee announced its endorsements following the four candidate forums sponsored by the Chamber, the Metropolitan Nashville Education Association and the Urban League of Middle Tennessee.

    SuccessPAC-endorsed candidates are:
    District 2: Jo Ann Brannon
    District 4: Anna Shepherd
    District 6: Cheryl Mayes
    District 8: Mary Pierce


    These endorsed candidates share certain key characteristics of an ideal candidate, including:
    • A strong commitment to public education and the highest standards of achievement for all students;
    • The ability to work collaboratively with diverse groups, including other board members, teachers, community organizations and elected officials, and a respect for differing points of view;
    • A desire to empower the director of schools to implement board policies and achieve academic results;
    • An understanding of the need for effective financial management of the school system;
    • A push for accountability at all levels of Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools; and
    • An understanding of the policymaking role of the school board.
    The Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce would like to thank all the candidates for their willingness to offer themselves up for public service. With early voting taking place through Aug. 2, we encourage you to research the candidates on the ballot and cast your vote for the ones who best represent the needs of our community. To find early voting times and locations, click here.

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  • Maximize the Effectiveness of Strategic Planning and Meetings

    by Stephanie Coleman | Jun 27, 2014
    Guest post by Janet McDonald, vice president, c3/consulting

    Today, two things take up an enormous amount of time in business – meetings and strategic planning. Wouldn’t it be great if you were able to wave a magic wand and transform both into things that drive your business forward and increase your competitive advantage?

    On the strategic planning front, we are all feeling the effects of rapid technological advancement and change. We used to conduct strategic planning with five- to 10-year horizons. Today, we are forced to think in a 12- to 18-month horizon. As a result, strategic thinking needs to be better than ever. If you’re going through strategic planning in order to check a box, don’t waste your time – instead, focus your energy on operational effectiveness. However, if you want to get the most out of your strategic planning sessions, understanding the critical questions and taking the time to debate them before setting strategy is essential. The Chamber’s professional development workshop, Strategy Boot Camp: From Vision to Execution, will equip you with tools and techniques that will help translate strategic planning into a competitive advantage.

    Did you know the average American spends four hours a day in meetings, yet one of the most common workplace complaints is that nothing gets accomplished in meetings? Action comes from commitment, and commitment comes from a true understanding and appreciation of the what, why and how. The Seven Separators of Facilitation Excellence will teach you how to become effective at leading meetings, increase productivity, and gain the team buy-in and consensus necessary to drive action.

    Register yourself or your team for these professional development workshops today at nashvillechamber.com/calendar. All registrants for the July workshops will receive a 10 percent discount, as well as a chance to win a $100 Southwest Airlines LUV Voucher. Don’t miss the opportunity to maximize your employee effectiveness and ensure you and your team are partners in your company’s growth and success!
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  • Entrepreneurs Rate Nashville among Friendliest Cities for Small Business

    by Stephanie Coleman | Jun 24, 2014
    Nashville is one of the top 10 cities in the country for small business, according to a new study released by Thumbtack.com, in partnership with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. 

    The results were published after a two-month survey of more than 12,000 entrepreneurs nationwide. The survey asked questions about the friendliness of states and cities towards small business, such as: "In general, how would you rate your state's support of small business owners?" Thumbtack.com and the Kauffman Foundation evaluated states and cities against one another along more than a dozen metrics. Tennessee also received an "A" rating in the survey.

    Though Nashville's business climate regularly receives national rankings, this study is particularly impressive because its results were derived directly from business owners themselves. Nashville's higher-than-average percentage of entrepreneurial businesses is due, in part, to factors such as our low tax rates, ease of hiring, overall business regulations and economic strength. Click here for an interactive map showing Tennessee’s small business friendliness.

     

     

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  • 2014 NEXT Awards Applications Now Open

    by Stephanie Coleman | Jun 15, 2014
    NEXT-AwardsNashville is a hotbed for innovators, entrepreneurs and creatives. At the 2014 NEXT Awards, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce and the Nashville Entrepreneur Center will recognize what's NEXT in the entrepreneurial landscape of Nashville and Middle Tennessee.

    Applications are now open to all individuals and companies who exemplify the innovative spirit that drives our local economy and continues to grow our key industries.

    Companies in the startup, growth and market mover stages will be awarded across five industry categories: digital media/entertainment; health care; social enterprise/sustainability; technology; and products/services. We will also celebrate Nashville’s standout entrepreneurs and young entrepreneurs.

    Applications open Monday, June 16, and the deadline to apply is Friday, August 15. Visit nextawardsnashville.com to learn more about the awards and submit your application.
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  • Ready For Our School Board to Decide

    by Marc Hill | Jun 03, 2014
    Our nine-member Metropolitan Board of Education has a tough job. They are elected by district and have an obligation to represent their constituents. At the same time, under Tennessee law, their role is modeled after corporate governance. They don’t legislate or run the organization. Instead, Tennessee school boards set policy and strategy for the school system. They have only one employee, the director of schools, who is accountable to the board for achieving the organization’s goals. And they can only act as a board, through majority vote. Once the board has acted, its members have a responsibility to respect and honor that decision.

    A board that has a unified vision and speaks with one voice exudes strength and confidence. A board lacking that discipline can appear to be heading off in nine different directions. Increasingly, members of the business community are wondering which kind of board our current Metro school board wants to be. For the past several months, public statements between meetings by individual members of the school board, on a variety of topics, have started leaving an impression of confusion, if not dysfunction. And as the public opinion polling in the Chamber’s Education Report Card demonstrates each year, Metro Schools doesn’t need an additional public relations challenge.

    The board’s latest public disagreement, reported in the Tennessean yesterday, is over whether members of the board should follow its own rules. Those “rules” are embodied in a process called policy governance, which the Metro school board first adopted in 2002. Policy governance was put in place because there had been board members who routinely sought to meddle in personnel issues and made time-consuming requests of staff throughout the organization. Implemented with fidelity, the policy governance structure clearly defines the working relationship between the board and the director of schools, allowing the board to focus on their strategic, policy-setting role. On the Policy Governance homepage, creator Dr. John Carver describes the “necessity to ‘speak with one voice.’ Dissent is expressed during the discussion preceding a vote. Once taken, the board's decisions may subsequently be changed, but are never to be undermined.”

    It’s the board chair’s responsibility to monitor the board’s fidelity to the policy governance model and address violations. According to news reports, this evening at 5 p.m., the Metro school board’s governance committee will discuss the board’s policy intended to prevent public criticism of the director of schools by individual board members outside of the evaluation process. The best director of schools candidates across the country will surely be following the board’s discussion closely through the news media -- if not today, certainly in the future through a Google search whenever that process is underway. Dismantling policy governance would be an enormous step backward. It would all but ensure a divided, directionless board, precisely at the time its leadership is needed the most.

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  • Who’s Running For School Board This August?

    by Marc Hill | May 30, 2014
    Improving public education remains a top priority for Nashvillians, whether you’re a member of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce or the mayor of our city. According to public opinion poll results released in the Chamber’s annual Education Report Card last year, 27 percent of Nashville residents listed education as the most important issue or problem facing our city, 11 percentage points higher than crime, which was second.

    On August 7, Nashvillians will elect four members of the nine-member Metropolitan Board of Education. Why is the school board important? As just about any seasoned executive will tell you, the effectiveness of any organization starts at the top. A board with a unified vision of where they are heading—and the self-discipline to stay that course—engenders confidence and a firm sense of direction throughout an organization. A board that is dysfunctional sends the message that there is no clear direction.

    The most important decision the school board makes is to select a director of schools to lead the school system’s more than 10,000 employees. And with current director Dr. Jesse Register’s contract set to expire on June 30, 2015, there’s a good chance the new board convening after this August’s election will be the ones making that decision.

    Despite this election’s importance to the future of our city, only about 5,000 voters will decide each race. In the five school board elections in 2012, voter turnout averaged about 15 percent. That means most of the races are determined by just a few hundred votes. District 3 winner Jill Speering had the closest margin, getting 145 more votes than her nearest opponent.

    Understanding that it’s difficult for the average voter to research each candidate’s positions on the critical issues facing public education in our city, the Nashville Chamber, Urban League of Middle Tennessee and MNEA are jointly hosting a series of school board candidate forums. These four forums, located in MNPS middle schools, are free and open to the public. Each will be moderated by a community leader who will ask the candidates about their positions on the MNPS budget, Common Core State Standards, charter schools, and what to do about persistently underperforming schools. There will also be time reserved for questions from the audience. For those who can’t make these forums in person, NECAT will be videotaping the forums for later rebroadcast on IQTV (Comcast Channel 10 in Davidson County). We’ll also upload the clips to the Chamber’s YouTube channel. For a flyer containing information on all the forums, including a map of the school board districts, click here.

    We hope many Chamber members and interested citizens attend the forums and tweet their thoughts about the candidates using the forum hashtags.

    Here’s the forum schedule:

    District 8: Mary Pierce and Becky Sharpe
    Monday, June 9
    5-5:30 p.m. refreshments
    5:30-6:30 p.m. program
    J.T. Moore Middle Gym, 4425 Granny White Pike, 37215
    #SchoolBd8

    District 4: Rhonda Dixon, Anna Shepherd and Pam Swoner
    Thursday, June 12
    5-5:30 p.m. refreshments
    5:30-6:30 p.m. program
    Two Rivers Middle Media Center, 2991 McGavock Pike, 37214
    #SchoolBd4

    District 6: Tyese Hunter and Cheryl Mayes
    Monday, June 16
    5-5:30 p.m. refreshments
    5:30-6:30 p.m. program
    J.F. Kennedy Middle Media Center, 2087 Hobson Pike, 37013
    #SchoolBd6

    District 2: Edward Arnold, Jo Ann Brannon and Bernie Driscoll
    Tuesday, June 17
    5-5:30 p.m. refreshments
    5:30-6:30 p.m. program
    McMurray Middle Media Center, 520 McMurray Drive, 37211
    #SchoolBd2

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  • Academies of Nashville Awards Celebrate Excellence in Public Schools

    by Marc Hill | May 13, 2014
    Last night, more than 300 academy business partners and Metro Schools educators packed Rocketown for the fourth annual Academies of Nashville Awards, a celebration of the successes of Metro's 12 zoned high schools. For the first time in awards history, we had a tie for the coveted "Academy of the Year" award, which is shared by McGavock High School’s Academy of Health Science & Law and Overton High School’s Academy of Engineering. The Academies of Nashville Awards are made possible by presenting sponsor Altria.

    A committee composed of school district, Nashville Area Chamber and PENCIL Foundation leadership selected nominees for each of the 15 categories. More than 400 educators and business partners then voted for a nominee in each category through an online secret ballot managed by Deloitte.

    In addition, one student from each of the 12 high schools will receive an award for Academy Student of the Year. The student winners were selected by the executive principal of each school and will be recognized during the PENCIL Foundation’s Bravo luncheon Friday, May 30.

    Academies partner with area businesses, community agencies and postsecondary schools to provide an enriched experience in and out of the classroom, creating relevancy in education and preparing students for college and career success. Thank you to our more than 260 partners that support the Academies of Nashville through regular participation and leadership.

    2014 Academies of Nashville Award Winners
    Executive Principal of the Year - Presented by Altria
    • Ron Woodard, Maplewood High School
    Academy Assistant Principal of the Year - Presented by Altria
    • Jill Pittman, Overton High School’s Academy of Information Technology
    Academy Partnership of the Year, Hospitality & Tourism Partnership Council – Presented by Fifth Third Bank
    • Holiday Inn at Vanderbilt and the Academy of Business & Hospitality at Hillwood High School
    Academy Teacher of the Year (CTE or Thematic Pathway) - Presented by Deloitte
    • James Anderson with Antioch High School’s Academy of Automotive Technology
    Academy Teacher of the Year (General Education) - Presented by Dollar General
    • Laura Vignon with McGavock High School’s CMT Academy of Digital Design & Communications
    Externship Project of the Year - Presented by The Memorial Foundation
    • Army Corps of Engineers and the Academy of Science & Engineering at Stratford High School
    Academy Team Leader
    • Tripp (John) Nicholson with Hillwood High School’s Academy of Business & Hospitality
    Academy Partnership of the Year, Arts, Media & Communications Partnership Council
    • The Parthenon and the Academy of Art, Design & Communication at Hillwood High School
    Academy Partnership of the Year, Business, Marketing & IT Partnership Council
    • US Community Credit Union and the US Community Credit Union Academy of Business & Finance at McGavock High School
    Academy Partnership of the Year, Engineering, Manufacturing & Industrial Technology Partnership Council
    • Universal Robotics and the Academy of Science & Engineering at Stratford High School
    Academy Partnership of the Year, Health & Public Services Partnership Council
    • Frist Center for the Visual Arts and the Academy of Teaching & Service at Antioch High School
    Academy Coach of the Year
    • Emily Hughes, Hillwood High School
    Counselor of the Year
    • Susan Murphy, Maplewood High School’s Academy of Business & Consumer Services
    Freshman Academy of the Year
    • Antioch Freshman Academy
    Academy of the Year (tie)
    • McGavock High School’s Academy of Health Science & Law
    • Overton High School’s Academy of Engineering
    For more information on the Academies of Nashville, visit www.academiesofnashville.com.
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