Ferebee: IPS teachers can expect a raise next year

PHOTO: Scott Elliott
Superintendent Lewis Ferebee said IPS teachers will get a raise when contract negotiations with their union are complete later this year.

Superintendent Lewis Ferebee tonight delivered Indianapolis Public Schools teachers the news they’ve been waiting to hear for more than five years: He promised them a raise next school year.

Ferebee said the administration, school board, the union and Elevate IPS, a new group that advocates for better pay for IPS teachers, jointly agreed union contract talks later this summer would produce “a raise on the salary base for all of our teachers.”

“This is a monumental statement in our effort to ensure that we value the talent of our teachers, many of whom have been loyal to IPS,” Ferebee said. “It’s an opportunity to retain and attract the best teachers for our classrooms.”

Exactly what the raise would entail — and whether it could be part of a bigger overhaul of pay scales and benefits that could offer teachers more pay for different job duties or taking on extra responsibilities — wasn’t shared. The school board will begin bargaining with the union over next year’s contract on Aug. 1.

“We can’t specifically discuss numbers at this point,” Ferebee said. “We want to be as creative and innovative as possible.”

IPS teachers union president Rhondalyn Cornett said she was pleased with the plan.

“It’s all negotiable,” Cornett said. “We’re opening to listening, of course, because we want people to get paid. Everybody’s suffering.”

Going more than five years without raises has proved to be difficult for teachers, who say they’re worried that too many of their colleagues are leaving IPS to take jobs in nearby districts that sometimes pay as much as 10 to 25 percent more. Ferebee said it’s hard to know how many people have been leaving to take higher-paying jobs.

Board member Sam Odle said the promise of a raise was a good first step to correct that disparity.

“We refuse to accept that excellent IPS teachers cannot be paid as much as their counterparts in other school districts,” he said.

Tina Ahlgren, IPS’s 2014 Teacher of the Year, said the announcement was exciting, but not a panacea for teachers who are financially struggling. It’s unlikely IPS could make up the entire deficit with a single raise, she said.

“We’ve gotten ourselves into a mess,” Ahlgren said. “We’re at a point where it has to be fixed.”

For now, Ahlgren said she hopes it gives teachers a reason to stay.

“It’s a tough job,” she said. “It takes a lot of hours. It takes a lot of heart. It’s really hard to be an IPS teacher when you know other districts nearby have sometimes more resources and a higher salary.

“We really hope any teachers that were thinking about possible making a leap out of IPS this summer rethink that.”

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.