Missing Payments

City and principals union at odds over back pay for former teachers, union says

Hundreds of teachers-turned-administrators could lose out on tens of thousands of dollars in retroactive pay due to teachers if the city has its way in contract negotiations, according to principals union officials.

City officials have insisted in negotiations that teachers who move into administrative positions any time during the life of the contract — from November 2009 until final payments are made in 2020 — are ineligible for their share of the roughly $3 billion in back pay and retroactive raises agreed upon in the new teachers contract, the principals union officials said.

“This is unjust for those of you who have earned those percentage increases and it also serves as a powerful disincentive for those teachers contemplating a promotion,” Ernest Logan, president of the Council of School Supervisors & Administrators, or CSA, said in an email Tuesday to principals union members. He called the city’s position on the matter “outrageous.”

About 2,000 CSA members have been promoted since 2009, and many more are expected to be in the coming years, according to the union, which is still negotiating a new contract for the principals, assistant principals, and other administrators it represents.

The city-teachers union deal, which was ratified last month, grants teachers back pay from the first two years when they worked without a contract, but says the money will be paid out in chunks from 2015 to 2020. For instance, a teacher who earned a top salary of $100,049 in 2009 is due to receive a total of $54,000 in retroactive pay disbursements by 2020. But if the teacher becomes a school leader before that time, she would forfeit whatever portion of the back pay she had yet to receive, the officials said.

“If it is truly retroactive pay, you’re being paid for work you already did,” said Joanna Cohen, an assistant principal at P.S. 2 in Chinatown who had expected to receive back pay for the years she worked as a teacher without getting raises. “Now you’re not being paid for what you worked.”

A similar issue arose in the city and teachers union negotiations, where it was decided that teachers who resign before the back pay is issued would not receive any of that money. Now, some of those teachers are suing the teachers union for that pay.

But in the case of the principals contract, the educators who stand to lose out on the retroactive money have not quit but instead were promoted to new roles by the Department of Education.

“Penalizing the very people the DOE has chosen to promote doesn’t seem to make that much sense,” said a union official familiar with the negotiations. The official said the back-pay dispute represents a major roadblock in the negotiations.

“Until this gets figured out,” the official said, “I have a hard time seeing how we’re really moving forward.”

Spokespeople for the mayor’s office and the education department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.