School board member hopes save teachers' jobs

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - As Memphis City Schools prepares pink slips for more than one hundred employees, teachers are worried, and one school board member is hoping to stop the job cuts before they start.

Monday, Commissioner Kenneth Whalum said he wants Superintendent Kriner Cash to put away his axe. Monday night, he will propose alternatives. Meanwhile, the teacher's union said members are sick with worry.

Cash told employees about the job cuts Friday. Monday, the Memphis Education Association teacher's union was bombarded with concerns from worried teachers.

Union President Stephanie Fitzgerald said she will make sure the cuts happen in a fair manner because the school system is bound to its contract with the teachers.

While she blames the Memphis City Council for cutting $66 million from the school budget and said the school administration had no alternative, Whalum said the school system could dig deeper into its rainy day fund.

"They have to hue very carefully to what the state guidelines are. There's no room. This is a slash to the bone budget," Fitzgerald said.

"If I ever saw a rainy day, this is a rainy day. This is a hurricane, this is a monsoon, this is a tornado, this is F5. This is terrible and so we keep talking that we're in a crisis, but I don't think we're acting like it's a crisis," Fitzgerald said.

Now, Whalum will propose the school system ask teachers who can retire to do so.

He also proposes that, as an act of faith, the school system drop the lawsuit against the city for the $66 million dollars in cuts and allow the other two parties in the lawsuit to carry that burden.

School district insiders have also said the teachers are not the only employees on the chopping block. They said the cuts will also happen in administration.  Fitzgerald said layoffs would include everyone, from school administrators, to secretaries, maintenance, and teachers.

"That's about the worst thing that could happen short of a death in the family," she said.
Fitzgerald said teachers are most vulnerable because of lower enrollment this year and the teacher surplus.  Last year, Memphis City Schools had 110,753 students and 6,438 teachers.

The average class size requires 30 students per teacher. So, if Memphis went by the state requirements, the school system would only need 3,692 teachers. A surplus of 2,746 teachers.

"What the state provides is the bare bones amount," Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald said Memphis schools need the extra support because of poverty.

"We have needs for all of those things that are probably much greater than the average school district simply because we are a large urban," Fitzgerald said.
That is why Whalum said the school system needs all the money it can get.

The layoffs are scheduled to begin next Monday.

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