Wooddale Middle School teacher Tina Armstrong called the district’s recently-passed bonus plan ‘a slap in the face’ while the president of the local teachers’ association said educators deserve a raise, not a bonus, during Tuesday night’s Shelby County School Board business meeting.

Following the meeting Superintendent Dorsey Hopson II said although teachers are in favor of step increases (to the salary schedule), the district is not offering general raises, but will reward teachers with performance-based pay.

“We have a robust and reliable data system that shows how teachers are performing,” Hopson said.  “If the data shows that a teacher is not performing, why should they earn as much as a teacher who is performing at a higher level?”

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.  All teachers working in the district can expect to receive the bonus after 20 days into the 2014-15 school year.

Hopson said the one-time teacher bonus is part of the district’s effort to thank teachers for their hard work.  Teachers have gone two years without a raise and some have endured job uncertainty as Memphis City and Shelby County schools merged last year.  Hopson said he wanted to be able to give all teachers something. The district’s long-term performance-pay plan has not been formalized.  Hopson said teachers will be involved in that process.

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.

Memphis-Shelby County Education Association President Keith Williams has called the district’s bonus plan a ‘Pig in a Poke,’ a phrase used to describe a trick or scheme.

Williams criticized the usage of teacher evaluation scores as a basis for rewarding teachers because the association argues that the value-added portion of the evaluation is unreliable and inaccurate.  Williams has also said that it is unfair of the district to not reward the efforts of retiring teachers, who will be separated from the district by the time the bonus checks are distributed.

“Retiring teachers should’ve been included,” said Rosemary Winters, a special education teacher and member of the association’s political action committee.

About a dozen teachers attended Tuesday night’s meeting and stood in solidarity in support of teachers and Williams, who spoke against the bonus pay plan and hiring process for teachers displaced by school closures this year.

Correction: An original version of this story stated the wrong time period teachers would receive their bonuses.  Teachers will receive them 20 days after the first day of school. 

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

Follow us on Twitter: @TajuanaCheshier@chalkbeattn.

Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/chalkbeattn.

Sign up for our newsletter for regular updates on Tennessee education news: http://tn.chalkbeat.org/newsletter/