Nashville's First-Day Festivities

I still remember what the first day of school was like -- the excitement of seeing friends, meeting new teachers and getting ready to learn. ...
by | November 15, 2006

School_1 I still remember what the first day of school was like -- the excitement of seeing friends, meeting new teachers and getting ready to learn. That lasted about 15 seconds. Then, it was nine months of pure drudgery.

But, in Nashville, Mayor Bill Purcell, who Governing will honor as a Public Official of the Year tonight, makes sure that the excitement lasts a little bit longer. Although I couldn't fit it in my profile of him, the city's unusual way of celebrating the first day of school is one of his prouder accomplishments.

For the past seven years, the city has held a massive, privately funded festival the Sunday before schools start, which is designed to build enthusiasm for the new year. Recent renditions have drawn more than 20,000 people, attracted by entertainment and school-supply giveaways, including a backpack for every student in attendance.

What's even more interesting to me is what the city does on the actual first day. Purcell has encouraged parents to accompany their students to school and has persuaded close to 200 area businesses to allow their employees to miss work so that they can do so. Not surprisingly, having parents join their students has greatly reduced truancy.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com

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