contract sport

At vote-counting, a snapshot of the final step in UFT contract sign-off

PHOTO: Mary Ellen McIntire
Ballot counters sort and scan votes on the United Federation of Teachers contract.

Nearly 60 people bunched along long conference tables in a lower Manhattan basement are working through more than 80,000 ballots that will decide the outcome of the city’s proposed contract with the United Federation of Teachers.

The union plans to announce final results of the contract vote sometime after 6 p.m. That’s two hours later than when officials originally said they wanted to make an announcement, a delay a spokesman attributed in part to a larger-than-expected voter turnout, which was projected at around 80 percent.

The vote-counting process includes verifying, sorting and scanning ballots, the majority of which were sent in last week. Overseeing the process is the American Arbitrators Association, an independent organization headquartered up the street from the UFT’s offices.

Ballots were supposed to be postmarked by Friday afternoon at 4 p.m., and Assistant Secretary Leroy Barr, the union official who has closely observed the vote counting, said more ballots have trickled in over the weekend and into Tuesday morning.

“The issue is that members have been without a contract for four-and-a-half years, and they’re excited to have an opportunity to vote on one finally,” Barr said.

The nine-year contract agreement include a 19.5 percent raise, when compounded, that would bring starting teacher salaries from $45,530 to $55,411 by 2018. Top-earning teachers’ salaries would climb to $119,565 from $100,049.

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PHOTO: Geoff Decker

The contract also establishes three new positions that would give teachers additional responsibilities in exchange for extra pay ranging from $7,000 to $20,000. The city will also be picking “hard-to-staff” schools that serve low-income communities and where teacher turnover has been high, where teachers will be eligible for $5,000 bonuses.

The contract also includes more time for teachers to work with each other and with parents, but a reduction in time allotted specifically for small-group instruction. The contract allows some schools to apply to opt out of certain rules and contract regulations.

Despite receiving a healthy dose of criticism from teachers within the union and some outside of it, the contract is likely to be ratified—though perhaps not by the near-unanimous margin the union would prefer. That was evident in a two-minute spurt of ballot-sorting by two counters on Tuesday afternoon.

During that span, they sorted about 15 ballots, which were color-coded by the type of contract they were voting on: white cards for teachers, pink cards for guidance counselors, and blue cards for paraprofessionals.

A tally showed 10 votes for “yes,” five votes for “no.” 

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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.