Five-hour budget meeting sheds light on possible teacher bonuses, cuts and expenses

PHOTO: Tajuana Cheshier/Chalkbeat TN
SCS Chief Academic Officer Roderick Richmond presents his department's plans for budget cuts and spending.

Shelby County Schools’ administrators gave insight into their plan to reward teachers for their performance in the classroom during a five-hour budget and finance committee meeting Friday.

Teachers with a proven track record of success can look forward to either a general pay or differentiated pay increase in the proposed 2014-15 budget, administrators said. They have not made a final decision yet.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson II said $15.6 million has been earmarked to provide teachers with a monetary incentive and reward.

“At the end of the day we want to come up with something that is fair for teachers to thank them for working hard and doing well,” Hopson said. “Talent is always a challenge; people see our lowest-performing schools as places they don’t want to go.  We have to develop our own teachers.”

During Friday’s meeting, members of Hopson’s leadership cabinet presented board members with individual department budget cuts and areas of investment.  All of the departments were hit with staff reductions.

In some departments the staff reductions were less than five positions while other departments are set to lose 50 positions or more.

SCS’s budget was cut by $227 million as a result of a loss of 33 schools that will become a part of the six municipal school districts in 2014-15.

With the district’s teacher compensation program, Hopson said all of the districts are in competition to attract and keep the best teachers.

SCS’s idea to reward high-performing teachers is a starting point, he said.

The district is considering whether to offer one-time bonus pay for all teachers or a more specific scale that uses teachers’ valued-added scores to determine the percentage of a pay increase a teacher would receive.

Under state law, all Tennessee school districts will be required in the 2014-15 school year to provide a differentiated pay plan for teachers.

According to the budget, a strategic compensation plan will be proposed by Jan. 15, 2015.

In the investment portion of the budget presentations, SCS ‘s focus next year will be on literacy programs and $5.9 million in proposed spending on a blended learning program. The blended learning program is a pilot initiative that will provide 17 schools with access to computers students can take home to continue learning.

Hopson said with Shelby County closing 10 schools next year, the schools that will absorb students from those schools will  receive additional support to address literacy and low proficiency rates.  Funds in academics and federal projects are geared to provide kindergarten through third grade reading teachers with more training and investing in testing to determine reading levels of students.

In cost-saving measures, SCS is planning to outsource its busing services and sell its fleet of buses for a projected $4.8 million as well as outsource janitorial services.

The board’s goal is to have a balanced budget adopted by June 30 and submit the budget to the state by Aug. 1.

The next step in the budgeting process is to allow community input and questions.  There will be  four meetings throughout the district beginning on March 17 through March 21.  All meetings begin at 5:30 p.m.

After the meeting, the board’s budget and finance committee chairman Chris Caldwell said he believes blended learning is a good investment and he also praised the efforts of I-Zone schools.

“After studying the budget, I see more than 50 percent of the money is going toward low-performing schools and we’re also investing in programs for high-achieving students,” Caldwell said. “I think this budget is the most comprehensive that I’ve seen and it’s given us a good foundation to start.”

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.