MNPS Voices: Dr. Sidonie Starr White

MNPS Voices: Dr. Sidonie Starr White, Dean of Students, Chadwell Elementary School
Posted on 03/22/2023
Dr. Sidonie Starr White

Dr. Sidonie Starr White is more than a Metro Nashville Public Schools administrator. She is an MNPS super fan. She gives the district kudos for helping her live beyond her dreams – and hopes to offer students the same opportunity.

“This is the best district in the universe because of what it has poured into me,” White says. “I am everything I wanted to be, and I did it all in the district where I attended schools that gave me my first exposure to education.”

White, a native Nashvillian who attended MNPS's Tom Joy, Jere Baxter, and Glenn elementary schools and Highland Heights Junior High School before moving to Atlanta for her high school years, is the dean of students at Chadwell Elementary School. Her role is to oversee the behavior and safety of students. She describes her style as tough, loving, and tender. This is only her second year out of the classroom, where she perfected her skills in classroom management. Starr White portrait outside of school

White, a decorated U.S. Air Force Operation Desert Storm veteran, entered the teaching profession by happenstance. She was seeking supplemental income to offset her National Guard career as a medical technician. She started substitute teaching in elementary schools and found her second career and life passion. She was a substitute teacher for over 15 years. Her child-like spirit made it easy for her to build relationships with children, gain their respect, and learn how to teach effectively.

In 2004 her work caught the attention of Nashville’s daily newspaper, The Tennessean. She was named one of the publication’s “40 Under 40” emerging leaders for her work as an impassioned substitute teacher working with at-risk youth at Park Avenue Elementary.

White calls the article the beginning of one road and the end of another. Nearly a month later, on April 2, 2004, she was “reborn” from addiction. She is a member of a worldwide fellowship that requires its members to be “gut-level” honest. White shared that she is now in her 19th year of sobriety. She is telling her story to elevate the need to serve families and students suffering with addiction.

White, the youngest of three children, lost her mom at age 17 and slipped into addiction as a coping mechanism. She considers herself the poster child of the stigma of addiction and recently joined the MNPS First Time Drug Offender Program team. White became intrigued with the program after reading the MNPS Voices feature on Stephanie Davis, the program’s director, who gave her the opportunity to support the district’s efforts to help families suffering with addiction.

White is living her dream by volunteering with the program once a month and sharing her story with MNPS families. Her introduction is one of hope to families. She shares her expertise on recovery but also explains that before the recovery, she was an addict, and she found her way out.

“Since joining the First Time Drug Offender team, Dr. White has provided hope and encouragement to our parents that there is help in our communities overcoming drug abuse,” Davis said. “She shares her story with life experiences to connect with parents who have drug abuse in their families or are concerned about their child’s drug use.”

White, who earned her doctorate degree from Trevecca Nazarene University in Leadership and Professional Practice, shared that her dream job would be working at a recovery school where everyone has in some way or somehow been affected by addiction. The model would include staff and teachers trained to support students and the entire family though the recovery process.

The former high school athlete exercises frequently to de-stress and rejuvenate. If you do not see the avid cyclist cycling around the Nashville greenways, you can catch her at the gym for her 4 a.m. workouts.

White, who is grateful for her second life, feels she owes everything to MNPS.

“If it were not for what MNPS has offered me as a human being – the people, the kids, the opportunity,” she said, “I would not have flourished like I have. I am flying and living beyond anything I could have dreamed for myself. MNPS has never let me down.”

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