human capital

Agreement on ATRs: Forced placement ban lives, and job security

Breaking a stalemate that hadn’t budged for months, the teachers union and the Department of Education have reached an agreement on how to drain a pool of teachers that has has been costing the city tens of millions of dollars — even though the teachers do not hold actual jobs. (I reported earlier that a tentative agreement was on the way; now, after the union’s executive board voted approvingly, it’s official.)

The group of teachers, known as the Absent Teacher Reserve, includes teachers who have been removed from their positions, but have not found new ones and cannot be fired because the union contract prevents that.

To deplete the pool, the agreement calls for offering monetary incentives to lure principals into hiring ATR members; they would not only have to pay less than the ATR members’ full salary levels, but they would also receive a lump sum of cash to sweeten the incentive.

It does not, however, include other proposals that had been floated. One that is not in the agreement was promoted by the Department of Education but opposed by the union; it would have forced ATR members who had remained in the pool for a certain length of time to go off the city payroll. Another proposal not in the agreement was suggested by the union; it would have forced principals to hire ATR members before hiring any other kind of teacher, a possibility the Department of Education strenously opposed, saying it would force teachers onto schools without principals’ consent.

Another thing the press release doesn’t make clear — and which no one can probably actually know — is whether the agreement will actually save the city money. Although encouraging principals to hire ATR members rather than new teachers could save the city in net, it would also cost the city money in financial incentives.

Here’s how a press release that just came out summarizes the deal:

Under the terms of the agreement, schools that hire one of the educators in the ATR pool after November 1 of each calendar year will receive two subsidies. The Department of Education (DOE) will pay the difference between the ATR’s actual salary and the salary of a starting teacher, and then, in subsequent years, will continue to pay the difference between the actual salary and the subsequent steps on the salary scale. This subsidy will terminate once the excessed employee has been in the position for eight years. The DOE will also give schools that hire an ATR an additional lump sum equal to half of a new hire’s salary.

Principals who are willing to hire ATRs but not permanently place them can instead hire ATRs on a provisional basis. In those cases, schools will pay the educators’ actual salaries. If a principal and ATR decide the ATR should be placed permanently, the school will receive the subsidies. If the ATR is not permanently placed, the ATR will return to the ATR pool at the end of the school year.

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.