Federal Judge Asked To Examine Teacher Seniority And “Excessing”

(Memphis) At American Way Middle School, first year teacher Mason Shughart feels as if he’s won the jackpot at a jobs fair for teachers.

“I just finally got a job at Lanier(middle school). I’m glad I have a job,” Shughart said.

But he’s emotionally torn when it comes to a new school board process to get rid of tenured teachers without cause.

“Seniority really shouldn’t matter. It’s are you a good teacher?” Shughart said.

Charlsy Henley is also here for a job interview with a principal. She’s been teaching with Memphis City Schools for ten years.

“If a teacher is effective and has seniority I see no reason why that teacher should have any problems with this process. I also want this process to give opportunities to new teachers,” Henley said.

Back in January, the school board adopted changes to teacher hiring practices, including new rules on how teachers are ‘excessed’ when schools don’t need them.

Keith Williams is president of the Memphis Education Association.

“These teachers have tenure. They have a property right to a job,” Williams said.

Williams says this isn’t about protecting bad teachers, but giving good teachers already in the school system a better chance at keeping and finding jobs.

“If they are bad teachers, the district has qualified them as high-flying teachers. The district has evaluated them as levels 3’s, 4’s and 5’s teachers. Those are the best teachers we have in the district and state. So, there are no bad teachers in this scenario,” Williams said.

Williams says there are 684 excess teachers in the district. He says more than 44% of them are top performers in the classroom.

Right now, the federal judge overseeing the schools merger has been asked to stop the process that allows principals to fire teachers without cause.

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