The Promise The Promise is a limited-run series about life in public housing, smack in the middle of a city on the rise — stories of a neighborhood in flux, a community defined by its struggles and the growing divide threatening its very existence.
The Promise

The Promise

From WPLN News

The Promise is a limited-run series about life in public housing, smack in the middle of a city on the rise — stories of a neighborhood in flux, a community defined by its struggles and the growing divide threatening its very existence.

Most Recent Episodes

The Final Exam

It's February 2020, and Warner Elementary's star is rising. It's showing so much progress this year that it might be able to go from one of the lowest performing schools in Tennessee to one of the best. Now it's just time to hunker down and work until the big state test at the end of the year. But we all know what happens next. First, a natural disaster in Nashville. Then, a global pandemic. And at a school with low-income students, these challenges hit especially hard. "I'm tired of fighting for kids. One person can't consistently carry that burden," Warner principal Ricki Gibbs said. "I was at a point where I was going to say, 'You can have Warner. This is too much.'" In this dramatic final episode of Season 2, crisis brings Warner's challenges to a breaking point. The Promise is written and produced Meribah Knight. Edited by Emily Siner, with additional editing by Anita Bugg, Tony Gonzalez, Samantha Max, Sergio Martinez-Beltran and Damon Mitchell. Fact-checking and research by Sam Zern. Advising for this season by Savala Nolan Trepczynski and Alex Kotlowitz. Mixing by Jakob Lewis of Great Feeling Studios. The music is by Blue Dot Sessions.

The Recruitment Divide

There was a time when the decision of where to send your child to school was relatively simple: public or private. Now, in Nashville and many other cities, those choices have multiplied exponentially. In large part, it's because of white families — a way to keep them in the public system, but on their own terms. But with so many choices at play, things have gotten messy. Judgement is cast. Pedagogy is ruthlessly ranked. Gossip and chatter steer decision making. And information begins to splinter. In this episode, we follow two mothers whose experiences in choosing a school couldn't be more different. The Promise is written and produced Meribah Knight. Edited by Emily Siner, with additional editing by Anita Bugg, Tony Gonzalez, Samantha Max, Sergio Martinez-Beltran and Damon Mitchell. Fact-checking and research by Sam Zern. Advising for this season by Savala Nolan Trepczynski and Alex Kotlowitz. Mixing by Jakob Lewis of Great Feeling Studios. The music is by Blue Dot Sessions.

A Reckoning

Last fall, parents from Lockeland Elementary held a community meeting to talk about the elephant in the room: Despite the diversity of the neighborhood, their school was the whitest school in the entire district. Some white parents in the neighborhood simply didn't see any problem. Others did and wanted the district to find a solution that would bring more children of color to their school. But there was a time, not that long ago, when an idea was floated that could have changed the makeup of Lockeland's student body — and it did not go well. In this episode, white parents start to realize that their choices, and the choices of their neighbors, created this problem. The Promise is written and produced Meribah Knight, with additional reporting by Samantha Max. Edited by Emily Siner, with additional editing by Anita Bugg, Tony Gonzalez, Samantha Max, Sergio Martinez-Beltran and Damon Mitchell. Fact-checking and research by Sam Zern. Advising for this season by Savala Nolan Trepczynski and Alex Kotlowitz. Mixing by Jakob Lewis of Great Feeling Studios. The music is by Blue Dot Sessions.

Warner's Hope

Warner Elementary is about to take its moon shot. After landing on the state's list of lowest-performing schools, it's aiming to make the list of highest-performing schools. Finally, it has all the right tools: an infusion of federal grant money, an energetic and experienced principal, and new class offerings that set the school apart. But the real turnaround will only work if more students enroll — white students, specifically. And most white families in the neighborhood want nothing to do with Warner. In this episode, Warner begins its uphill turnaround battle. The Promise is written and produced Meribah Knight. Edited by Emily Siner, with additional editing by Anita Bugg, Tony Gonzalez, Samantha Max, Sergio Martinez-Beltran and Damon Mitchell. Fact-checking and research by Sam Zern. Advising for this season by Savala Nolan Trepczynski and Alex Kotlowitz. Mixing by Jakob Lewis of Great Feeling Studios. The music is by Blue Dot Sessions.

What You Can't Unsee

When Willie Sims' daughter started kindergarten at a high-performing elementary school in East Nashville, all seemed well at first. His daughter loved her teacher. She was making friends. But then Willie realized: In a neighborhood with tons of Black families, his daughter was the only Black child in the entire grade. Then he started hearing murmurings from other families, white families, concerned about the issue of resegregation. They were mobilizing. They wanted to push the school to acknowledge the fact that families of color were becoming scarcer and scarcer at the school. In this episode, white parents start to see the problem. And once they do, they can't unsee it. The Promise is written and produced Meribah Knight. Edited by Emily Siner, with additional editing by Anita Bugg, Tony Gonzalez, Samantha Max, Sergio Martinez-Beltran and Damon Mitchell. Fact-checking and research by Sam Zern. Advising for this season by Savala Nolan Trepczynski and Alex Kotlowitz. Mixing by Jakob Lewis of Great Feeling Studios. The music is by Blue Dot Sessions.

The Unraveling

After 43 years of courtroom battles, Nashville's landmark school desegregation lawsuit was settled. In the eyes of the law, the city finally made an honest effort to racially integrate its schools. But in truth, the matter was far from settled. For the Kelley family, whose son was the case's named plaintiff, being Black in America meant there were battles and sacrifices at every turn — far beyond education. And for Richard Dinkins, the plaintiffs' lawyer, hope was quickly replaced by dismay as he watched decades of work and progress towards school desegregation begin to unravel. "The settlement was based on mutual promises," Dinkins said. "The city broke the promise." In this episode, our story about Nashville's fight for school desegregation continues. The Promise is written and produced Meribah Knight. Edited by Emily Siner, with additional editing by Anita Bugg, Tony Gonzalez, Samantha Max, Sergio Martinez-Beltran and Damon Mitchell. Fact-checking and research by Sam Zern. Advising for this season by Savala Nolan Trepczynski and Alex Kotlowitz. Mixing by Jakob Lewis of Great Feeling Studios. The music is by Blue Dot Sessions.

The Nashville Way

To understand the resegregation of Nashville's schools, you have to start with understanding desegregation. In 1954, the famous Brown v. Board decision ruled that segregated schools violated the constitution. But in reality, that decision changed very little in Nashville. Segregation was an architecture, and to pull it apart was a grueling endeavor. White families derailed the process. City officials worked mightily to resist it. And black families sacrificed for it. In this episode, we're going back to the early days of this battle for racial equity in the classroom, to the time not that long ago when school desegregation literally blew this city apart. The Promise is written and produced Meribah Knight. Edited by Emily Siner, with additional editing by Anita Bugg, Tony Gonzalez, Samantha Max, Sergio Martinez-Beltran and Damon Mitchell. Fact-checking and research by Sam Zern. Advising for this season by Savala Nolan Trepczynski and Alex Kotlowitz. Mixing by Jakob Lewis of Great Feeling Studios. The music is by Blue Dot Sessions.

A Tale Of Two Schools

At the beginning of the 2019 school year, Principal Ricki Gibbs knew he had a tough job ahead. Warner Elementary in East Nashville had just landed on Tennessee's list of lowest performing schools. It had lost so many students that it wasn't even half full. Gibbs was the fourth principal in six years. Yet, he had seemingly unending enthusiasm and a federal magnet grant to boot. He was confident he could turn Warner around. But what he didn't anticipate was the neighborhood divide. Warner's kids are almost all black and most live in poverty, but just about a mile up the road is another public elementary, named Lockeland, whose student body is exactly the opposite. What happens when you have two schools so close together yet so different? And what happens when people in the neighborhood finally start to notice?

Season 2 Coming Soon

Season 2 of The Promise grapples with some of the most divisive topics in America: public education and race. This is a story about one school trying to stay afloat, a neighborhood divided over race and economics, and a city that's resisted school desegregation every step of the way. Coming Aug. 31 to a podcasting app near you.

Update: Letting Go

Ms. Vernell has another big decision to make: to stay in Cayce through the chaos of redevelopment, or to leave? Her conclusion reveals something about this long, messy process to overhaul Nashville's public housing. What happens when residents get tired — tired of being told to keep waiting, tired of being asked to keep moving ... just tired?

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