Get to Know Mayor Karl Dean

Mayor Karl Dean’s political leadership has set the stage for change in Nashville’s educational landscape. Soon after his election in 2007, the mayor declared that improving Nashville’s schools would be his “number one focus.”

One of his first steps was to partner with Teach For America, raising the necessary community funding to launch and sustain the organization in Nashville. He also attracted The New Teacher Project to the region. Combined, about 250 teachers recruited by Teach for America and The New Teacher Project now work in Metro Nashville schools.

Mayor Dean created M-SAC as a partnership between Metro Schools, Metro Police, and Juvenile Court to provide early intervention for students with multiple absences, leading to a 17.2% drop in high school truancy. He also created the Nashville Afterschool Zone Alliance to coordinate a system of free and accessible afterschool programs, which more than doubled the number of middle school students participating in structured after school programs. In March, 2012, Dean opened enrollment for the inaugural class of the Scholars Academy, a free four-week intensive academic summer program to help Metro School students prepare for success in high school and eventually college. The program, which also includes year-round support for the scholars and their parents, is part of Dean’s push to double the number of Metro Nashville Public School students who attend college and receive a post-secondary degree.

Given the energy among political leaders about these initiatives, Teach For America corps members and alumni are part of an exciting effort to bring lasting change for the kids of Greater Nashville. 

Region Timeline

  • Nashville becomes the permanent capital of Tennessee with a House vote of 50-43, beating out rival city Murfreesboro.

  • Vanderbilt University is founded. Northern industrialist Cornelius Vanderbilt provided the initial $1 million endowment to help heal the wounds of the Civil War.

  • Jubilee Hall, the first building in the U.S. constructed for the higher education of African Americans, is built.

  • Public schools begin to desegregate amid major protests and a bomb detonation at Hattie Cotton Elementary School. No one is killed, and the remaining desegregation plan goes on without violence.

  • The Nashville Student Movement launches a sit-in campaign to desegregate the city’s lunch counters. Initially met with violence and arrests, the protesters were eventually successful.

  • The Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools officially forms with the unification of Nashville and Davidson County schools, combining the urban and more affluent suburban schools of Greater Nashville under one governing body.

  • A federal judge orders Nashville schools to begin busing students to reduce racial segregation and isolation. Many whites protest, some boycott, and another 12,000 leave the school system for other educational options.


  • After three school board rejections and a letter stating, “It’s unreasonable to believe that all kids in East Nashville can or want to go to college,” the state overturns the local decision and KIPP Academy Nashville, the city’s first tuition-free college prep charter school, opens to the community.

  • Tennessee is awarded more than $501 million in the federal government's Race to the Top competition, based on the state’s comprehensive, four-year school-reform plan.

  • Tennessee creates its first Achievement School District to turn around the lowest performing 5% of schools in the state.


It is such a humbling experience to be a Teach For America corps member. You have the opportunity to have a direct effect on young children and provide all that you can in order to help them become successful. There truly is no better feeling.
Anthony Fowler
Greater Nashville Corps 2010


01/12/2014 - 12:43pm
National service harnesses the energy and ingenuity of our nation’s most valuable resource: its citizens. A recent Columbia University study finds that for every dollar invested in national service, we see a return of $3.95 in terms of higher earnings, increased economic activity and other communitywide benefits. In tough economic times, service programs are exactly what we need to ensure the well-being of citizens and communities in a cost-efficient way.
12/24/2013 - 2:47pm
For the teachers who enter the classroom through our program, Kujichagulia means having a vision for students defined by absolute excellence, not the expectations of others. It means learning from our most successful educators and raising the bar for what we believe is possible — in a teacher’s first year or 15th.

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