Tennessee

Hopson holds off on outsourcing the hiring of substitute teachers

PHOTO: Tajuana Cheshier/Chalkbeat TN

Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dorsey Hopson II removed from Tuesday’s board meeting agenda a proposal to outsource the hiring of substitute teachers but said it’s not completely off the table.

“We’re going to answer all of the board members’ questions, look at the true cost and our options,” Hopson said after the board’s meeting.  He anticipates his administrators taking up to three weeks to prepare a full report on the issue.  “We could come back with a called meeting sometime in June to continue the discussion.”

Hopson was in support of the proposal to use Kelly Services to hire substitutes for the district for $11 million, $2 million more than what the district spent during 2013-14 to hire substitutes.

Some of main selling points Hopson mentioned included Kelly’s ability to fill substitute positions at a 97 to 100 percent rate and offer health insurance to part-time employees working at least 30 hours a week. He also said it would free  up current Shelby County Schools’ human resource employees to recruit teachers rather than staff buildings.

In the district’s outsourcing proposal, officials estimated that 800 to 1,000 Shelby County teachers are absent per day.  That number is higher than the national average, according to a report from The Commercial Appeal. 

“We’re looking at ways to save money and still improve services; it all has to balance,” Hopson said last week.

Board member Teresa Jones posed several questions about the proposal during the board’s work session last week and said she would not support it because it contained “too many holes.”

Following Tuesday’s meeting, Jones said she’d like the district to take a slower approach in making this decision.

“There are a lot of unknowns and we could take a year and really look at this,” Jones said.  “We have an 85 percent fill rate now.  If we hire two extra people, enhance our technology, we may be able to fill our substitutes ourselves.”

Jones also said the district shouldn’t overreact to estimates that it may be costly  to cover insurance for about 200 substitutes who work more than 30 hours a week.  Health insurance for those employees could cost the district $900,000 a year, according to a report from The Commercial Appeal.

The Memphis-Shelby County Education Association has voiced opposition to the district’s recent outsourcing decisions of custodial work and transportation.

“We don’t think outsourcing is good for the whole education process,” said Ken Foster, executive director.  “A lot of times the substitutes are part of the school’s community; they’re in the schools regularly.  We have a long history of being opposed to outsourcing  Where does it stop?”

Contact Tajuana Cheshier at tcheshier@chalkbeat.org and (901) 730-4013.

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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.