Shelby County Schools

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

PHOTO: Kyle Kurlick
Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dorsey Hopson aims to increase the district's four-year graduation rate from 75 percent to 90 percent by 2025.

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.

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Aurora school board reverses course, accepts finding that district should have negotiated bonuses with union

Students in a math class at Aurora Central High School in April 2017. (Photo by Yesenia Robles, Chalkbeat)

Following weeks of criticism, the Aurora school board on Tuesday reversed course and accepted an arbitrator’s finding that a pilot bonus system violated the district’s agreement with the teachers union.

The Aurora school district rolled out an experiment last year to offer bonuses to some teachers and other staff in hard-to-fill positions, such as psychologists, nurses and speech language pathologists.

The teachers union argued that the plan should have been negotiated first. An arbitrator agreed and issued a report recommending that the pilot program stop immediately and that the district negotiate any future offerings. The union and school board are set to start negotiations next month about how to change teacher pay, using new money voters approved in November.

When school board members first considered the arbitrator’s report last month, they declined to accept the findings, which were not binding. That raised concerns for union members that the district might implement bonuses again without first negotiating them.

Tuesday’s new resolution, approved on a 5-1 vote, accepted the full arbitrator’s report and its recommendations. Board member Monica Colbert voted against the motion, and board member Kevin Cox was absent.

Back in January 2018, school board members approved a budget amendment that included $1.8 million to create the pilot for incentivizing hard-to-fill positions. On Tuesday, board member Cathy Wildman said she thought through the budget vote, the school board may have allowed the district to create that incentive program, even though the board now accepts the finding that they should have worked with union before trying this experiment.

“It was a board decision at that time to spend that amount on hard-to-fill positions,” Wildman said.

Board president Marques Ivey said he was not initially convinced by the arbitrator’s position, but said that he later read more and felt he could change his vote based on having more information.

Last month, the Aurora school board discussed the report with its attorney in a closed-door executive session. When the board met in public afterward, it chose not to uphold the entire report, saying that the board could not “come to an agreement.” Instead board members voted on a resolution that asked the school district to negotiate any future “long-term” incentive programs.

Union president Bruce Wilcox called the resolution “poorly worded” and slammed the board for not having the discussion in public, calling it a “backroom deal.” Several other teachers also spoke to the board earlier this month, reminding the newest board members’ of their campaign promises to increase transparency.

Board members responded by saying that they did not hold an official vote; rather the board was only deciding how to proceed in public. Colorado law prohibits schools boards from taking positions, or votes, in private.

The board on Tuesday also pushed the district to provide more detailed information about the results of the pilot and survey results that tried to quantify how it affected teachers deciding to work in Aurora.

story slam

The state of teacher pay in Indiana: Hear true stories told by local educators

It’s time to hear directly from educators about the state of teacher pay in Indiana.

Join us for another Teacher Story Slam, co-hosted by the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, Chalkbeat Indiana, and Teachers Lounge Indy. Teacher salaries are the hot topic in education these days, in Indiana and across the country. Hear from Indianapolis-area teachers who will tell true stories about how they live on a teacher’s salary.

Over the past two years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from the teachers, students, and leaders of Indianapolis through our occasional series, What’s Your Education Story? Some of our favorites were told live during teacher story slams hosted by Teachers Lounge Indy.

Those stories include one teacher’s brutally honest reflection on the first year of teaching and another teacher’s uphill battle to win the trust of her most skeptical student.

Event details

The event will be held from 6-8 p.m. on Friday, March 15, at Clowes Court at the Eiteljorg, 500 W Washington St. in Indianapolis. It is free and open to the public — please RSVP.

More in What's Your Education Story?