Chasing Bailey

8 Episodes

By: Chasing Bailey

Chasing Bailey is a podcast about a group of teachers, leaders, and others who dedicated themselves to changing the fortunes of a failing middle school in Nashville TN from 2012 to 2016. They succeeded, but their achievement was bittersweet. In 2016, the district closed that school. Still, those who were there knew they had stumbled onto something special, some important educational truths that might help all of us find our way out of the morass that COVID 19 has left us in.

Bailey Closes on Greenwood Ave.


It’s been a minute since our last episode … sorry to keep you waiting to hear just why Bailey on Greenwood Avenue was shut down, but I couldn’t explain how Bailey closed without the help of Principal Christian Sawyer and Dr. Alan Coverstone who was the Director of the iZone in MNPS and the administrator who got the ball rolling for the Bailey transformation – and those two guys are tough to pin down.   Once we got to talking, I was fascinated by the way Christian and Alan reflected on their experience with Bailey, taking responsibility, not blaming an...

This Is What Success Looks Like


The question of a school’s “success” is the thread underlying this entire podcast – and the specific target we aim at today by listening to the voice and experience of four representative Bailey students.   In the face of all we could put in the basket of “learning loss,” the educators at Bailey reconstructed their interactions and their expectations to experience success for themselves and their students …. Yes, success (or at least substantial improvement) in test scores, but success understood far more broadly and deeply to incorporate mental health, social and emotional capacity, academic achievement, and growth in intelligence.   ...

Allyship at its Best? Black Teachers Lead the Way

October 31, 2022

Chasing Bailey

Episode 6: Allyship at its Best? Black Teachers Lead the Way



Have we unintentionally reinforced a stereotype about Black and white teachers in the last two episodes?  In a majority Black school, do the Black teachers carry the social-emotional weight (and expertise), while the white teachers are the instructional and academic experts?  That’s definitely not the story we wanted to tell about Bailey, so in this episode, we address the issue head on, inviting teachers and teacher leaders to talk about how Black and white learned to wor...

To Fail Safely: Teachers’ Creativity as the Lifeblood of Learning

September 30, 2022

Chasing Bailey

Episode 5: To Fail Safely:  Teachers’ Creativity as the Lifeblood of Learning


In this fifth episode of Chasing Bailey, we consider the question of curriculum.  What was the curriculum that powered academic success at Bailey and how did it come to be?  The short answer is that teachers created the curriculum on the fly by focusing laser-like on their students’ needs and prior understanding, freed up to do that by a principal who saw brilliance in the teachers and the scholars.  Turns out he was right …




Love and Limits: Re-making Culture for/and Learning at Bailey

August 31, 2022

Chasing Bailey

Episode 4: Love and Limits: Re-making Culture for/and Learning at Bailey


In this fourth episode of Chasing Bailey, we turn to the critical issue of culture for learning and growth.  We think about the transformation that supported the Bailey shift from “persistently dangerous” and academically unmoored in 2011 to solidly “Satisfactory” on the district’s School Assessment Measure in 2015.  That movement was spearheaded by Chief of Culture Claire Jasper who, with her “Culture Team,” steered the change based on “Love and Limits.”



00:00  Introduction:  Love and Limits: Re-makin...

Locating Leadership at the Heart of Teaching and Learning

July 31, 2022 

Chasing Bailey 

Episode 3: Locating Leadership at the Heart of Teaching and Learning 


The third episode of Chasing Bailey looks at how teacher leadership multiplies the point and power of teams in schools.  Four teacher leaders – Kelly Aldridge Boyd , LeKeisha Harding, Whitney Bradley Weathers, and Lindsey Nelson -- describe their experience and outline how they grew into their roles. Host Barb Stengel links the work of these teacher leaders to the actions of the school principal, Christian Sawyer, highlighting how his willingness to let go was as important as his efforts to guid...

Teaching is a Team Sport

This second episode of Chasing Bailey explores the first of several characteristics that marked the practice of education at Bailey: that is, teaming. Content teachers, special educators, teacher leaders, paraprofessionals, and residents learning to teach collaborated on both grade level and content-focused teams to encourage the growth and development of every scholar. Host Barb Stengel documents the difficulties in learning to team well and the remarkable successes that resulted from persistence and commitment. She focuses not only on the structure of the teams, but also on the infrastructure that teaming made possible: 1) a relentless focus on students’ growth, 2) a co...

"Let's Remember Who We Are": The Bailey Story

This first episode of Chasing Bailey sketches the four-year story of an effort to transform a “failing” public school in Nashville, TN, only to have success turn sour when the district office determined that the underserved students at the school -- mostly poor and mostly Black -- had to be moved out of the place that had become their educational home. Host Barb Stengel introduces us to several central players and to the important infrastructure elements – teaming, teacher leadership, residents, relationships, race, culture, curriculum, collective responsibility, and equity – that made a difference at Bailey, and that will be explored in depth...