Teacher angry after MCS eliminates 33 positions

(WMC-TV) - Memphis City Schools eliminated 33 teaching positions across the district Thursday, the same night new members of the unified school board met to learn their responsibility to the school system.

The news of the layoffs painted a picture of the harsh reality to the 23-member unified school board.

Last spring, the then Memphis City School Board announced 600 teaching positions that were considered surplus. Since then, the district leaders said they worked to find them jobs in the district.

The 33 people without jobs are those the district could not place.

Officials said the cuts are not specific to grade or discipline. New board member Kevin Woods said he hates to see the cuts.

"Lots of teachers, we are faced with a daunting task of what we do with new teachers and teachers out of work," said Woods.

With 28 years experience, Bob Brown loves his job. Last year he relocated from Johnson City to take a job with Memphis City Schools.

This year, he signed a contract to teach at Airways Middle school, but Thursday, he was part of a group of teachers that was surplussed.

"It's awful. I can see why Shelby County doesn't want Memphis City Schools," he said. "These folks can't judge a pie-eating contest."

Brown was escorted out of the building by MCS security, who he says used excessive force. Either way, like 32 other teachers that were laid off, he was given a wallet-sized packet that included an antacid and a sewing kit.

"Yeah, they got a little wet nap in there too," Brown said. "I thought I was in KFC for a sec."

Brown contacted Action News 5 after he heard a comment by school board member Martavius Jones on the news.

"I don't think it's a situation where we are taking a teacher who is in a classroom teaching a child and saying, 'You don't have a job anymore,'" Jones said Thursday night.

Friday, Brown wanted to respond.

"That's a blatant lie because I've been teaching since day one," he said.

Brown believes the teacher surplus system is flawed.

"My concern is, why did you hire me and have me sign a contract when you had somebody who had more seniority who was gonna bump me later? That's what I don't understand," he said.

Thursday evening, MCS issued the following statement:

"Today, Memphis City Schools made the difficult decision to eliminate 33 teaching positions across the district due to budget shortfalls.  Teachers are the heart of schools and eliminating positions is a decision that we do not make lightly.  Throughout this process the District has worked side-by-side with the Memphis Education Association (MEA) in assisting 600 surplused teachers in finding/filling positions matched to their expertise, the vast majority of which were selected by principal/teacher agreement, and a small amount placed by seniority as outlined in the MCS-MEA agreement. Unfortunately, this year, the number of surplus teachers exceeded the number of available positions.  We will continue to work closely with principals and the MEA to ensure a smooth transition with minimal disruption to students as well as ensure the questions/concerns of affected teachers are addressed."

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