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Shelby County Schools’ teachers to receive one-time bonus, differentiated pay plan still in the works

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson II, center, with Shelby County school board president Kevin Woods, left, and board member Billy Orgel, right.
Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dorsey Hopson aims to increase the district's four-year graduation rate from 75 percent to 90 percent by 2025.
Kyle Kurlick

All Shelby County School teachers in the 2014-15 academic year should receive a one-time bonus based on their evaluation scores, Superintendent Dorsey Hopson II proposed Tuesday. Teachers’ future earnings through the district’s differentiated pay plan is still in development, he said.

Hopson said the district isn’t able to give employees a cost of living raise since the state withdrew the 2 percent pay increase for state employees in April. Hopson said initially, the district planned on using the state-promised 2 percent cost of living increase to fund a differentiated pay schedule. The district was counting on $9 million from the state, but because of budget cuts, the state only provided $6.2 million.

Bonus pay for teachers will start at $250 for Tier I and Tier II level, $650 for Tier III, $800 for Tier IV and $1,250 for Tier V. Teachers in the Tier I and Tier II level are considered in need of improvement while a Tier III teacher is considered a strong teacher and Tier IV and Tier V teachers are the highest-performing teachers.

The board could vote on the issue during next week’s business meeting.

Board member David Reaves questioned if the district “was going to make a habit of giving bonuses to Tier I and Tier 2 level teachers.”

Hopson said that in light of the numerous changes that Shelby County teachers have endured including the merger of Memphis City and Shelby County school districts, which resulted in the loss of positions, reduction in benefits and lack of pay increases, he felt it was necessary.

“I think it’s very important in light of the fact that there was no (pay) increase at all last year, and in light of the fact that teachers are being asked to do more with less and are going to continue to be asked to do more with less so ideally we’ll come up with a structure that will reward all teachers with something,” Hopson said in a prior interview.

All teachers working in the district can expect to receive the bonus 20 days into the 2014-15 school year. About 3,000 to 4,000 teachers are expected to separate from the district by June 30. Those teachers will not receive the bonus.

Memphis-Shelby County Education Association President Keith Williams said that isn’t fair. He likened the bonus plan to a ‘Pig in a Poke,’ a phrase used to describe a trick or scheme.

“This is not a salary increase, let’s be clear about that,” Williams said after Tuesday’s meeting. “This is a bonus; very small trinket that is symbolic of a bonus. Since it’s based on last year’s scores, why won’t retired teachers receive it? It’s not added to teacher’s salary and it doesn’t do anything. It’s going to create separatism, competitiveness and more dissension than it will good.”

Williams said it’s also not fair to base the bonuses on teacher evaluation scores. The Tennessee Education Association, the largest teacher advocacy group in the state, spent this year’s legislative session campaigning against the use of growth scores, or Tennessee Value-Added Assessment Scores, to determine teacher licensure renewal and in making high-stakes employment decisions.

“TVAAS doesn’t represent what teachers do in the classroom,” Williams said. “Some of our level one teachers are level fives and our fives are ones. It’s a flawed system.”

District officials said that teacher input will be sought as the differentiated pay plan is drafted. Director of Human Services Trinette Small said more than 100 employees were surveyed about health insurance coverage before the district finalized its plan, which was also reviewed during Tuesday’s meeting.

Small and Hopson said Shelby County Schools is offering insurance benefits comparable to Memphis City and Shelby County government offerings. The district is increasing its health contributions from 63 to 66 percent.

Hopson said he’s excited to be able to offer a small increase in health coverage considering the expense and climate of steady increasing costs. He is concerned, however, that the district could face financial penalties if it fails to offer health coverage to its part-time employees who work 30 hours or more, under the Affordable Health Care Act. Under his proposal to outsource substitute teacher hiring to Kelly Services, the district wouldn’t be obligated to offer health care to substitutes.

That was one of the selling points, Hopson said after Tuesday’s meeting. He’s still planning to bring that proposal to the board once all of the questions posed by members have been answered.

Contact Tajuana Cheshier at and (901) 730-4013.

Follow us on Twitter: @TajuanaCheshier, @chalkbeattn.

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