(WMC) - Parents are concerned about teachers threatening a possible sick out as the battle over pay and policy continues with Shelby County Schools.
First it was the so-called "Blue Flu" for the Memphis police sickout, then the "Red Rash" for Memphis Fire Department. Now, reports are coming in of a "Red Apple Virus" that could take teachers out of the classroom.
"I'm not a factory worker, I am a teacher. I don't sent children down a conveyor belt so everyone one of them can be exactly the same," one teacher said during a heated SCS board work session Tuesday night.
Teachers spoke their minds about ongoing issues including the merger, violation of family medical leave act, placing teachers in the district, and a riffing policy that involves how employees are removed from the district when the school system loses positions.
Memphis Teacher Association officials filed five lawsuits against the district earlier this year, but MTA president Keith Williams says there is no talk of a possible strike because it's illegal.
However, it is not illegal for teachers to call in sick, a thought that parents don't like to hear.
Superintendent Dorsey Hopson says he is aware of the issue, but pointed out that many teachers receive bonuses that exceed the raises they would have received under current pay scale models.
SCS said there were no reported increases in teacher absences Wednesday.
During Tuesday's meeting, a SCS teacher called out the board for continuing to understaff his school year after year.
"For the third year in a row, the third year in a row, you have understaffed our high school. Intentionally. Please stop, Please, I'm begging you," teacher Robert Schueller said.
Schueller is one of two social studies teachers at Mitchell High School. He and many of his colleagues say they don't have enough staff to do their jobs.
"There are children sitting in their desk that are going to be moved because you under estimated the number of students. The algorithm that you're using isn't working," he said.
After the public comment session, Hopson said he heard the issues and is aware of the problem.
"I don't want you think that falls on deaf ears. Our human resources department at the direction of this board has been working for the last two to three years to figure out ways," Hopson said.
Hopson sent the following note to teachers last week:
We are now three weeks into the new school year, and I just want to take a moment to recognize and thank you for your role in making this one of our smoothest starts in recent memory. I know that no single person or factor impacts the achievement of our students more than a teacher. The State's release of some remarkable school level achievement and growth data this week was yet another reminder of how hard you work.
Over the past few weeks, I've had the opportunity to meet with groups of teachers and hear from many of you individually. Talking with you and hearing your feedback is something I appreciate greatly and remain very committed to. I think it's important to maintain a two-way dialogue so that I and my team at central office can make informed decisions about how to support you as individuals, as well as support your schools.
Some of you have expressed concern recently about the timing of teacher retention bonuses, and I am happy to report that these will be paid on the first paycheck in October. I know that the last year has been incredibly challenging, so I was very happy that our Board supported our decision to provide bonuses for all teachers who remained with Shelby County Schools in 2014-15. For the large majority of teachers, the bonuses are higher than a traditional step increase. In addition to the bonuses, all teachers will be receiving the first of two $100 payments in October to be used for instructional supplies in the classroom.
I have also listened to many teachers and other employees over the past year who said the cost of health benefits was a difficult burden. In response, I directed staff to analyze the issue and work diligently to find a solution that benefits employees. This year, as you may know, our budget is structured in a way that the District is now absorbing more of the cost for health benefits so that you are paying less for your premiums.
Before closing, I would like to thank those of you who collaborated on the development of the new TEM 4.0. I know that teams of teachers met more than a dozen times dating back to early spring, and I believe this strong feedback helped us take a real leap forward with this year's rubric. I'm looking forward to my next meeting with teachers regarding TEM 4.0 next month, and I'm interested in hearing more from you on this as we move through the rest of the school year.
Please know that in my commitment to the students of this District, I always recognize the invaluable role you play. I aim to be as supportive and responsive as possible and, therefore, appreciate all of my interactions with you.
I wish you the best the rest of this school year and thank you for your hard work every day.