Lawsuit filed after school closures cost teachers jobs

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Some Shelby County teachers are firing back at Superintendent Dorsey Hopson and the entire Shelby County School Board.

They say after a number of schools were taken over by the state, merged with other schools or just closed all together, they’re left hanging with no jobs.

Now they’re asking a judge to intervene.

Five teachers, along with the Memphis/Shelby County Education Association, filed a lawsuit because they say administers aren’t honoring their tenure.

“I also have applied to over 70 positions. I’m not only a tenured teacher, I’m a high degree teacher. I hold a Ed.S in administration and supervision. I’ve applied to those positions as well and I haven’t received a call back or anything,” said Heather Bee.

Bee has 30 days to find a job after the state took over Coleman Elementary. She has 14 years experience, but must convince a principal to hire her or she’s unemployed.

She’s not one of them but, other teachers with the same problem joined the local education association in a lawsuit that demands the district honor their tenure.

“We’re hoping the courts will force this district to live up to the terms of the tenure law which says that teachers who have tenure to teach in this state, it is a property right, if they are competent teachers and there is a position for which they are available in the district,” said Williams.

Williams says the district is using the Best Fit Method, where principals decide whose best for their individual schools.

“If a principal does not like me, I don’t get a job. That’s best fit. They must like you. You must come and fit into their world and must do as they say and if you don’t, you don’t get a job,” said Williams.

WREG contacted Shelby County Schools about how teachers are affected by the closures.

A spokesperson said because this is a legal matter they won’t comment.

“It may be an economic thing I don’t know what it is but when this system and city say when people have paid their dues here can no longer work here. We’re going to supplant you with these new untested, unqualified folks. there’s a problem,” said Williams.

Bee says she is qualified and has received good evaluations regularly.

“I have good marks throughout my career. That’s why it’s kind of shocking that I’m in this position today looking for a job,” said Bee.

Williams claims Teach for America teachers are being placed in jobs that should go to the experienced and tenured.

20 comments

  • Aha!

    Bee is absolutely correct. TFA is taking jobs from teachers, good teachers. TFA teachers have 5 weeks of training, and she has 14 years experience. They are hiring for cheap. Good for her for suing SCS.

    • Emory

      “Bee is absolutely correct. TFA is taking jobs from teachers, good teachers. TFA teachers have 5 weeks of training, and she has 14 years experience. They are hiring for cheap. Good for her for suing SCS.”

      Bee isn’t suing SCS nor did she say TFA is taking jobs from anyone. Williams apparently said that and WREG ran with it. Honestly, pointing blame toward TFA for “taking jobs” is naive and serves as a scapegoat for a failed system.

      • Meghank

        You are absolutely wrong. TFA is to blame for many things – chief among them putting uncertified teachers into classrooms, even special education classrooms, when experienced teachers ARE available for hire.

      • ejrw

        “You are absolutely wrong. TFA is to blame for many things – chief among them putting uncertified teachers into classrooms, even special education classrooms, when experienced teachers ARE available for hire.”

        I’m “absolutely wrong” about what? Yes, TFA teachers are getting hired at some schools and other teachers, who went with the traditional certification routes, are not. Perhaps those teachers weren’t performing well? However, placing ALL blame on TFA is completely misguided. Districts, regions, and schools have been underperforming for decades and now many new programs (TFA is one of HUNDREDS) wants to provide additional options, create new ideas, and seek potential solutions. And this is a problem? Or, at the very least, your main gripe with America’s current educational landscape? Essentially, the only thing your placing value on is “certification” but what exactly does that entail? Is it rigorous enough? Does it hold significant value/worth? And, like many non-traditional programs, TFA teachers are working toward certification while teaching.

    • MemphisDad

      No, they are not good teachers. The average graduate from MCS can’t read, write, or wear pants. The teachers and the teachers union are solely to blame. Until we tie student performance to teacher pay we will continue to get less for our money.

      • Betty

        So, I am to be paid according to student performance. Many students (and parents) are not interested in education. They are more interested in the “drama” at home and in the neighborhood. I do NOT raise my students. All I can do is my best. I give them everything I have every day. I am a good teacher. I can’t pour information in their heads. Students and parents have responsibilities in the education process. If they do not meet those responsibilities, should I be penalized? I don’t think so!

    • Betty

      This is all economics. If you go to the “hiring events” the majority of the teachers are over the age of 45. TFA teachers can be hired almost 2 to 1. I was a level 4 teacher last year. My school closed. I lucked into a job and now that school is closing. TFA teachers are NOT qualified. They take a job and stay long enough for their loan to be paid and leave. I have worked with them. They don’t know what they are doing and have no idea how to deal with the students.

      • ejrw

        “This is all economics. If you go to the “hiring events” the majority of the teachers are over the age of 45. TFA teachers can be hired almost 2 to 1. I was a level 4 teacher last year. My school closed. I lucked into a job and now that school is closing. TFA teachers are NOT qualified. They take a job and stay long enough for their loan to be paid and leave. I have worked with them. They don’t know what they are doing and have no idea how to deal with the students.”

        But why point blame solely toward programs like TFA? I’m sorry to hear about you losing your job, but I don’t think blaming TFA, or the numerous programs like TFA, does anything to solve the current educational problems we have. Aside from that, you said TFA teachers are unqualified, but wouldn’t almost ALL incoming, novice teachers struggle and be considered unqualified when compared to veteran teachers? For the record, I’m a TFA teacher entering my third year of teaching. I’ve worked with both phenomenal and mediocre teachers (TFA, traditional programs, and other programs). Your generalizations are not only harsh, but mostly untrue. Most TFA teachers get involved because they want to make a positive impact and a difference in the lives of children. Most really love working with kids and want our future generations to be better off than our current ones. I’m sorry you’ve worked with a few bad apples, but the majority strive to make a positive impact in their communities and in the lives of our students.

  • Ashley

    Way to go… I wish you well. SCS might as well pick up the “at will” contracts and fire everyone with experience, in order to hire TFA. When will the colleges and Universities stand up for their good solid programs? What will become of those seeking careers in education? Will they also seek refuge within TFA like other unemployed degree holders other than those education majors. I applaud you teachers, no raises, no respect, now oust by 19 to 21 year old inexperienced teachers.

    • ejrw

      “Way to go… I wish you well. SCS might as well pick up the “at will” contracts and fire everyone with experience, in order to hire TFA. When will the colleges and Universities stand up for their good solid programs? What will become of those seeking careers in education? Will they also seek refuge within TFA like other unemployed degree holders other than those education majors. I applaud you teachers, no raises, no respect, now oust by 19 to 21 year old inexperienced teachers.”

      Colleges and universities have “good solid programs” – which ones? Many education majors are some of the lowest-performing at their individual colleges. Also, “19 to 21 year old” is just silly. Anyone from TFA has a college degree and I’m not sure of any under the age of 21. In fact, if you look at some schools, many are much older. Some are even older than those who have sought a career in education at a college program.

  • Phil

    ….“If a principal does not like me, I don’t get a job. That’s best fit. They must like you. You must come and fit into their world and must do as they say and if you don’t, you don’t get a job,” said Williams. Well…Welcome to The Real World! Perhaps if you find it distasteful to become properly subordinate, you can start your OWN business. Each DAY, you’ll know EXACTLY how much your contribution was to the company. (Some days you may not even get paid) Possibly, you could purchase one of those hot dog carts and pay taxes and fees, and supplies, an try to set up on Beale Street. (Good Luck!)

  • Trese

    I understand oh too well. I am in the same position. I am a level 5 educator, Ed.S. in Administration and worked in a leadership position for several years. I am now scrambling applying for jobs. To date 20 teaching positions and 42 administrative positions. I have not received an interview as of yet. I feel and have heard principals are only posting positions for legality purposes, they have already promised positions to who they prefer. I understand loyalty and having the autonomy to hire who you would like, but just stop giving false hope for those of us who need a job. Also, I understand the district had a job fair for external applicants, if that is true…what about those who are internal dedicated effective educators. Why can’t we find a job?

    • Dr. JohnS

      Trese you are not the only one, many with Ph.D are asking the same thing. It is the poor economy probably nothing personal. I know people who have a masters degree working in supermarkets hoping the job market will get better. You might try Mississippi I understand some of their school districts are expanding.

      • Trese

        I suppose I could try Mississippi but I don’t believe the salary is comparable to my current salary. I just want SCS to place educators who meet or exceed the classification of an effective teacher to ensure we are placed before hiring inexperienced teachers. That’s good business.

    • jk west

      I am a SCS first year teacher and my position was excessed because another district is taking over the school. I was invited to 2 different internal hiring fairs, so I know those options exist. I agree it is awful to lose a position and even worse to apply to do many positions and not receive a single call/email back.

  • Karen

    What a waste of tax payer dollars. Just because you are tenured does not mean you are the best teacher. It simply means you have stayed around long enough. It’s true there are some great tenured teachers but many are lazy and have the I can’t be fired attitude so I just sit around collect a check and let kids pee in trash cans. If Fed-Ex, UPS or any other company closes a division do you sue them? No, you apply for another position with the company pray you are hired and if not you move on. Far too many people think that more means better. What about student achievement? Pull their test scores and see what that experience is actually doing for the students they are paid to teach. I want my tax dollars spent on the best teachers and that does not always mean it’s the one who has been there the longest.

    • Forest Gump

      Are you a teacher? Have you been in a classroom lately? Do you keep up with education news or do you pick and choose topics? I challenge you to sit in a classroom of a tenured, experienced teacher for 1 hour. You’re concerned with student achievement? What is student achievement to you? Is it good grades? Is it good TCAP scores? Or is it a well adjusted student who is prepared for the next grade, who looks forward to college, who diligently completes assignments?
      Research the many different computer assisted programs mandated by the school system, research all the policies enacted by the board, even before Herrington, pressuring of parents to pass their “overaged” child to the next grade regardless of academic, social, and emotional growth. Look up the definition of tenure, it has nothing to do with lazy. Know what you’re talking about before speaking so that you’re not so offensive.
      More is better in the case of education. Our children enter the classroom with many issues that grown folks can’t handle, they have seen and experienced things that would kill me, and I”m not weak. The more education, experience a teacher or administrator has the more equipped they are to handle these situations and help our children. More resources become available to these teachers so that they can guide students and often student’s parents to get assistance.
      I don’t know the entire story of the lawsuit, and I’m sure there’s more to it than the news reports.

  • Massey2

    Seems to me that when SCS signed the contract to hire TFA teachers in the midst of school closures, school take overs, and the municipal school districts, they knew many veteran teachers would be out of a job regardless of their evaluation marks and did not care.

  • mjc

    Unfortunately, we are losing good teachers who decided to make teaching a career and have been teaching for more than 15 years and new teachers who wanted to make a difference by teaching children. It is no longer about the children. We are making Memphis a city where few people will want to come to teach. Don’t blame TFA; they need jobs just like all of those very capable tenured teachers. Apparently, the powers that be don’t care if many TFA Fellows have no plans of making Memphis their home and really helping the city to thrive educationally and financially. Blame politics at the Board and representatives there who can’t see the big picture because their pay checks aren’t yet affected (They will be eventually, fellows.).

    You also have to look at state politics. After all, the head of the Department of Education was a TFA fellow. How many years of classroom experience do you think he has? Do you think they were really thinking of “our children” in Memphis/Shelby county when they replaced MEA/TEA with a “collective bargaining unit”? SCORE (an organization that looks at unions as being bad because the facts show that the organization generally supports Democratic candidates brought in Jeb Bush to speak about how they were bashing teacher unions in FL and getting rid of those tenured teachers who weren’t doing their job.) We know what the TN legislature thinks of “our children”. They showed us when they approved legislation rather speedily to create municipal school districts. Unfortunately, we have ignorant leaders and principals who think that you can rate a teacher on a scale of 1-5, assign them a number that is the sum total of that individual. Students think it is ridiculous that part of a teacher’s evaluation is based on how well they do. Ask them. It was supposed to be a fair system, but there is lots of room for subjectivity and malice. You can’t quantify what teachers do. What messages are we sending to “our children”?

    Good luck teachers. Don’t stoop so low as to think of yourselves as a level. You are great teachers and extraordinary leaders. That’s why you are doing what you’re doing. I applaud you for taking a stand against injustice. I think parents will have to take over and boycott the system(including the Charters) before someone gets the message that “our children” do matter and good teachers take extraordinary means every day they are in the classroom to help them learn and too many of them are being let go.

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