MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A sea of red at Tuesday night’s Shelby County School Board meeting, teachers dressed in red as a show of solidarity.
Educators addressed the commissioners, expressing frustration about the district’s professional development program, and the required 64 hours of continuing education courses. Teachers said the time could be better spent working with students, or on lesson plans or grading papers.
“There are so many growing pains,” STEM teacher Art Scott told the board. “This must be addressed.”
“It takes too much time and it’s not useful in the classroom," said teacher Cheryl Bailey.
Keith Williams, Executive Director of the Memphis-Shelby County Education Association led the charge.
“You are forcing teachers to do what no teachers in districts across the state have to do,” he told board members. “The district has moved forward with PD that is punishment for teachers.”
White Station High School finance teacher John Trowbridge called the classroom and online PD requirements “busy work”, so frustrating, he’s considering a career change.
“All teachers have to go through this, and it’s insulting to the older teachers and overwhelming and simply not helpful for younger teachers," he said.
SCS spokeswoman Jerica Phillips said all but around 3 percent of the district’s 6,000 teachers have successfully completed their professional development for the 2019-2020 school year. Superintendent Dr. Joris Ray said he heard his teachers’ complaints during the board meeting, and their concerns are valid. The PD program’s been modified before, he said, and if need be, it can be changed again.
“We are going to continue to look at and refine this, to see what’s best for teachers, because that’s what I’m about," said Ray.
SCS students, said Ray, deserve better equipped teachers. But union leaders say there’s a better way to do that.
“We are sick and tired of being sick and tired," said Williams.
Teachers represented half of those in the standing room only crowd at Tuesday’s school board meeting. The other half were students, parents and staff from three SCS charter schools facing closure.
Dr. Ray’s staff recommended to the board commissioners that they not renew agreements with Memphis Business Academy Middle, Memphis College Preparatory Elementary and Veritas College Preparatory Elementary.
About 900 students and their families faced the possibility of having to find a new school to attend next year. School supporters showed up in force to address the board and plead their case. And the SCS board heard them.
Commissioners voted down the recommendation for closure. The charter schools will remain open.