The Vilification of Amy Frogge


Others have also shared experiences of witnessing the treatment of students inside the school:

Chest thumping reformers are at it again….
by Celle Baldwin

I am the mother of two girls. As a female that worked in male dominated professions of construction and cabinet making I am all too aware of our society’s perception that females are weaker and less than their male counterparts. As a woman I am sadly aware of the perception of many males that the only value that females have is for the man’s pleasure. We are things to be had, used at will, and tossed aside at the whim of men. As a parent of girls I feel it is my responsibility to raise them to value themselves above all else. I also strive to teach them skills so they can self advocate as well as advocate for others who may be powerless for whatever reason. It’s my hope that if they master these things they will be less likely to become victims of abuse or bullying nor will they stand by while others are the victims. My girls are empowered and they understand that conflict can be resolved with communication, creative thinking and compromise by both parties. They are taught to respect their elders, peers and authority but that respect does not mean submission.

Their schools (elementary and now middle) have worked with my girls to guide them toward the same goals that I have described above all while fostering in them a love of learning. I have watched them achieve academic and emotional growth with each year of school because their schools focus on the whole child not just test scores. Every child deserves the same opportunity and I have spent the last three years working as a volunteer public education advocate trying to ensure our schools are supported so they can offer that opportunity to all of our students.

My advocacy started out as a fight along with a handful of new found friends to keep an out of state charter operator, that openly segregated, from establishing schools in Nashville. We quickly realized that the reform and privatization movement was coming from the state level so we focused our efforts on legislation. In an effort to better understand what the legislators were pushing we decided to tour Nashville’s “best” charter school, Nashville Prep. We spent an hour and a half being escorted around the school by a few people and talking at length with one of them, a man by the name of John Little, who at the time worked at the school but now happens to be working on David Fox’s campaign to get out the vote in the African American community. We were newbies to the charter model and Little was more than generous with his time. He was also very patient with our many questions and musings about the school and the education landscape as we viewed it with our limited knowledge of the scope of charters and reform. Ravi Gupta, the founder and operator of the school, hung in the hallway as we chatted with Little as I’m sure he was wondering who we were and what we wanted.

While touring with Little I noticed a list posted on the main hallway wall. I asked him what it was and he said it was a ranking of the students by performance from highest to lowest. Being that I have a child with severe disabilities I asked him if the students with learning disabilities ever got discouraged by always being at the bottom of the list. He informed me that they did not because the kids could get “merits” based on behavior and move up the list even if their academic performance wasn’t up to par with their peers. I was still a little baffled by the public display of ranking and it must have shown on my face because he offered to show me and my friend how the discipline model worked. He explained that there were high expectations for discipline in the school and among others things arguing with peers or a teacher were prohibited and grounds for a demerit (which ostensively could hurt their ranking). Right about then a class of students was filing into the hallway for a bathroom break. A young girl about eleven or so was walking behind Little toward the bathroom and she caught his eye. He turned to her and said “Janey (not her real name) that is a demerit.” She stopped walking and looked at him inquisitively but never said a word. He then repeated “Janey, that is a demerit.”. You could see the wheels turning in her head as she tried to figure out what she had done to deserve a demerit, which was nothing. She had done nothing but walk toward the bathroom as she had been instructed by her teacher. So after the second time he said it she just turned and headed toward the bathroom. She came out a minute or so later and looked straight at Little with a befuddled look. He said “It’s a demerit” and her shoulders dropped and she walked back toward her class line. He turned around to us with a big grin and said “SEE! She didn’t put up a fight or argue because she knew it would just get her another demerit. She can get a merit later and make up for it.”

After seeing all the orchestrated movements and verbiage that was used with, and expected from, the students this display didn’t strike me as odd at the time but it would several weeks later. We finished up our tour and headed out. I received an email two and a half hours after our tour, from Ravi Gupta, thanking us for coming and inquiring about the age of my kids. I sent him back an email thanking him for allowing us to tour and telling him how impressed I was with the school, which I was. I bought the dog and pony show hook, line, and sinker just as many people in this city have done. Gupta invited us to meet for coffee to chat some more which we did a week later. That discussion was great as Gupta was very friendly and willing to chat just like Little. There were a few red flags in the conversation about topics like would he consider taking over a charter school -that was struggling academically and at risk of closing at the time-and he said something to the effect of “that is not our model”. With time and research we would come to understand that meant “We take in kids one grade at a time and we indoctrinate them into our culture and weed out those who are not on board with the militant discipline. Taking a whole school of kids makes it hard to get them to comply and for us to get the academic results.” But as newbies it didn’t register as such so we went on our merry way to fight the “reformers” which at that point we didn’t identify Gupta as falling under that label.

The day before our tour Alex Little (no relation to John) and Natasha Kamrani, wife of Chris Barbic (head of ASD) ran and editorial in the Tennessean announcing themselves as leaders of a new Nashville branch of the Democrats for Education Reform. It was full of typical DFER rhetoric about failing schools and choice and zip code. A few weeks after that DFER came out with a horrendous video degrading our schools and directly naming an MNPS school and calling it a failure. As a response to the hateful DFER video an op-ed was written and was submitted to the Tennessean. The term “privateers” was used as a play on pirates and privatization. Our group then noticed that Gupta had, in an unfortunate coincidence, changed his profile picture to a picture of himself dressed as a pirate. So I sent him another email as a heads up about the DFER op-ed so he would not get dragged into it by happenstance of his costume. He replied with a thank you and that was the last time I ever emailed him.

Time went on and our group learned more about how the reform machine works and how a false narrative had been created around “failing schools” so that charters could come in to “save” the students from their schools tied to their zip code. We began to see the bigger picture of how no excuses charter schools, such as Nashville Prep, work and why they get the scores that they do. At some point during all of that the pieces started to click together as I rehashed that tour in my mind. It hit me. The whole discipline display with “Janey” hit me as I finally recognized what I had witnessed. No excuses schools are about submission. We were shown first hand how Janey had been trained into submission. An authority figure gave her a demerit and she knew she didn’t do anything to deserve a demerit but she also knew that if she didn’t submit she would get another demerit. There was no power for Janey. There was no self advocating because it would have resulted in more punishment. This eleven year old FEMALE had been trained to submit to anyone that she viewed as an authority figure. Let that sink in for a minute.

In Nashville Prep the students are told that kind of submissive behavior will make them college and career ready. Jumping when a teacher barks an order, obeying when a teacher tells you to track them with your eyes, flipping a paper in perfect synch with the rest of the classmates, sitting in STAR position, regurgitating learned chants as responses to verbal cues are all expectations at Nashville Prep and are claimed to make the students college and career ready. I beg to differ. That kind of behavior makes you a victim to whoever establishes dominance over you. It does not make you more apt to succeed academically, it does not make you more capable at your job. It makes you malleable to the will of whoever holds the perceived power be it a boyfriend, a boss, a teacher or whomever.

So fast forward to last week when a complaint was lodged from a parent at Nashville Prep. Just another in a string of complaints over the years, this time is was about inappropriate language and content in a book used in a seventh grade class. The book happens to be uploaded in pdf form online so I glanced at it to get a better understanding of what the issue was. I was stunned to say the least. This book is in no way developmentally appropriate for twelve year olds. I was told there was an effort to mark out some of the plethora of curse words in the text which made me feel a little better until I decided to really read the book instead of just scrolling through. It’s a coming of age story based during WWII where a teenage boy and a twenty year old male end up on a hunt for eggs for a colonel who they are indebted to. The author weaved a narrative of harrowing tales of near death experiences that were tied together with a thread of the teenage virgin boy being “educated” by the twenty year old on how to get laid. The common theme of the book was that females are essentially pieces of meat for men to screw. Even if you were to take out every curse word and replace it with a more acceptable word for a twelve year old to be reading, in school, it does not change the message of the book with regards to the value of women.

There is one girl in the book that is a strong character and quite literally saves their lives at one point and becomes the one the teenage boy falls for. But even without any sex scenes involving her, the twenty year old confessed to his teenage friend (as he nears death) that he had masturbated using this girl as his inspiration. The only strong female in the book is reduced to an object for his friend to get off. As an adult reading the book I can view it with the knowledge that much of the advice given to the teenager by his older friend was mysogynistic and came from an incredibly selfish and immature individual. But putting this in the perspective of a twelve year old boy who is potentially dealing with puberty, and all that comes with it, I can not imagine the imprint this story will have on their perceptions of females. Also what message is this book sending to the girls who are already taught to be submissive in their school? How does this book empower these girls? It doesn’t, and my concern is it does the opposite.

Yet when this complaint about language and content came to the attention of Ravi Gupta he did not do what you would think. He did not apologize to the parents for the curse words that were left in the text that the kids read out loud in class. He did not show any concern for the tone this book sets for young minds with regard to females. No, instead he turned it into a circus by writing a blog post for his school account accusing a board member of book burning. He rattled off reading levels to justify giving an adult novel to all of the twelve year olds in his school. He proudly declared that he had photocopied a published book and altered its text. He boldly declared that he has full autonomy and no one associated with MNPS can tell him what to do even though his school is an MNPS school.

Then his reform loving friends jumped on the book burning bandwagon on Twitter including DFER’s Alex Little, the former State Education Director Kevin Huffman, and current MNPS teacher Zach Barnes. All of these men, who have children, are defending Ravi Gupta for allowing sexually explicit language and context, that is derogatory toward women, to be used as curriculum and read aloud in class by twelve year old kids. They seem incapable of grasping the impact that this book could have on children that are in the process of working out their self identity, dealing with body changes, hormones, sexual feelings, and trying to make sense of it all. This is reform my friends. This is what it means to have public money funding a privately run school that can do whatever they damn well please. This is “choice” and it is bolstered with chest thumping arrogance and it is ugly. Sadly it will be a thousand times worse if David Fox is elected as mayor because he is all about having more charter schools and empowering them with autonomy. It’s the Nashville Way…..

If you care to read Gupta’s rant you can find it here:

If you care to read the original uncensored book you can find it here:
Redacted by I Teach I Vote editors, due to copyright]

And if you want to see one example of what was actually given to the students at Nashville Prep to read you can find it here:



The Drama Continues:

The following letter was sent, from Ravi Gupta, to Nashville Prep parents. In response, several parents began attacking Amy Frogge on her Facebook page. Again, he tries to focus on only the book, and make it sound like Frogge is an enemy.  It isn’t surprising that I haven’t found responses to the larger issues inside the school.

“Dear RePublic Families,

On Friday, a local school board member, Amy Frogge (who represents Bellevue), called on the district to shut down on of our schools – Nashville Prep – Because Frogge disagreed with the choice of book our 7th grade students are reading. Presumably she also wants to shut down Liberty Collegiate because that school is also reading the book in question. Of course, if you have questions, feedback, or suggestions about our book choices, please reach out to your teachers and school leader.

But, this is clearly not about the book. This school board member has a history of coming after RePublic Schools and will stop at nothing to shut us down. She has previously compared charter school leaders to slave owners and has suggested parents like you have been tricked into enrolling in our schools. (Which is false, as i asked my own parents to enroll me) We wrote a lengthy response to Frogge (attached) that made it very clear that we will not be bullied around – and that she will fail in her attempts to score political points on the backs of our schools.

Since yesterday, Frogge and her allies have been circulating false information about our schools – accounts that you will find utterly unrecognizable from your experience. These politicians ignore your voice, your children’s results, and your experiences at RePublic at the expense of their political agenda.”


It appears that Mr. Gupta and his stakeholders are following the reform agenda to the letter. They have removed all possibility of accountability or control, outside their own organization. They have successfully created a culture of fear and submission in their schools which includes entire families. They have created a network of false media statements and have a well-oiled PR machine working to discredit anyone who speaks the truth. They have orchestrated continued and concentrated attack on one of their strongest opponents, Amy Frogge, in an attempt to discredit her, refocus on the smallest issues, and make the truth about their school appear to be insignificant nit-picking. (The truth is, sadly, too long and complicated to hold the attention of most readers.)

They have orchestrated all of this, with funding from Tennessee taxpayers and blessings from our legislators. 

It is urgent, that we support Amy Frogge, and share the truth about the reform/privatization/takeover movement before more children are subjected to these cruel, unforgiving, inappropriate conditions.


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