School board urges teachers to be patient

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - While the final enrollment tally for Memphis City Schools was calculated Tuesday, School Board President Tomeka Hart urged teachers to be patient.
"We say wait until you understand what's going on.  A lot of the information that's out is incorrect, it's hurried," Hart said in an interview Tuesday.

Enrollment is critical because the number of students enrolled in each school determines the number of teachers who can stay on the job.

"The state has a criteria that's based on the actual number of children. That's why this registration number is so important," Memphis Education Association president Stephanie Fitzgerald said.

In preliminary numbers, Memphis City Schools counted 110,212 enrolled students from pre-K to high school, including special ed and charter schools. But the school system will only receive funding for the 102,993 traditional students enrolled, down 3,996 students from last year.

Right now, the school system is in a court battle with the City of Memphis to pay for the students the state does not cover.

Fitzgerald said one question needs answering.

"Do the residents of Memphis have some form of fiscal responsibility for the Memphis City Schools?" Fitzgerald said.

PTA Vice President Jeraldine Davis and fellow retired educators in her neighborhood are worried teacher cuts mean doom for Memphis Health Careers Academy.

"Those are our children and this is our school and we don't want that to be closed and it end up being a haven for crime in the community," Davis said.

The building housed Southwind before low enrollment shut them down.  With a math teacher and a science teacher at the school considered surplus teachers, the state does not have to fund their positions.

Davis said that puts the program in peril.

"They will not be able to have a quality program with the loss of two teachers," Davis said.

Fitzgerald said teachers with more experience can bump less experienced teachers out of other schools.

"This should be done on the basis of certification for the position and seniority," Fitzgerald said.

But Davis says that will endanger programs all over Memphis.

"If you dismantle the school, they cannot provide the individual attention these children need to become the professionals that we would like for them to be," Davis said.

They have written to their local and state legislators asking them to step in and stop the cuts.

There's a teacher surplus job fair tomorrow. Friday, employees find out who keeps his or her job, and the layoffs begin Monday.

Click here to e-mail Kontji Anthony.