New IPS teachers contract pays bonuses based on performance

PHOTO: Alan Petersime

Teachers in Indianapolis Public Schools who were rated “effective” last fall can earn a $1,500 one-time pay bonus under a new contract approved Tuesday by the school board.

The deal did not include traditional, across-the-board raises that board member and union officials had said they hoped teachers would receive. Some IPS teachers have gone five years without a raise. The agreement is also well short of the total rethinking of how teachers are paid that board members and Superintendent Lewis Ferebee have said they want to explore.

But Ferebee said the contract represents progress toward those goals for the cash-strapped district’s nearly 2,500 teachers.

“It’s a move in the right direction,” Superintendent Lewis Ferebee said. “We want to do as much as we can for teachers. This builds on an opportunity … so in the future we can do more.”

The new contract is built on a series of compromises between the union, for which more pay was a top priority, and the board, which sought flexibility:

  • The $1,500 “loyalty bonus” would be paid this fall to those deemed “highly effective” or “effective” based on their 2013-14 evaluations who returned to teach in IPS.
  • Instead of higher starting salaries for new teachers, the contract allows for flexibility to hire some teachers at higher rates than others based on their ability to teach a high-need subject or willingness to work in a low-performing school.
  • The district will stop its practice of paying more to teachers with advanced degrees, but those who already earn a higher salary because of a master’s degree or doctorate degree will continue to do so.
  • Teachers will have a chance to earn $5,000 stipends for taking on more responsibility, such as developing curriculum.
  • Health insurance premiums will cost employees more, but the district will pay the difference this year so teachers don’t have more out-of-pocket costs.

Union president Rhondalyn Cornett said she was satisfied overall with the outcome of the negotiations, which started Aug. 1.

“Teachers are stepping up and doing more things all the time,” she said. “It’s about time they get compensated for it. We wanted to see (an increase to the base salary), but the district explained it was a recurring cost.”

Most of IPS’ teachers are expected to earn the $1,500 bonus, although teachers rated as ineffective and those who need improvement won’t be eligible. Just five of the district’s teachers were rated ineffective in 2012-13 according to data released by the state this spring. Teacher effectiveness ratings from last school year haven’t been publicly released yet.

A controversial 2011 state law now requires teacher pay to be linked to merit, meaning teachers will be paid partly based on their students’ performance, including their scores on the state ISTEP test. This contract will be the first one IPS has negotiated since that took effect.

Meanwhile, IPS and other school districts have been tasked with overhauling their teacher evaluation systems, a process that the district is just starting to work on with IUPUI.

“Our hope is to continue to find more money to put into the pot,” board member Caitlin Hannon said. “We can do some creative things. We still have a long way to go to attract and retain the best talent.”

Board member Gayle Cosby, a former teacher, was the lone vote against approving the contract. She said the district should have done more to increase teacher pay.

“I realize that might not be the best position from a financial standpoint,” Cosby said. “It’s probably advantageous to take it slower, but I really had high hopes of better pay for teachers at this point.”

Cosby was also disappointed with that the district moved away from extra pay for teachers who earn advanced degrees. State law now requires that not more than a third of teacher raises can be based on additional degrees they earned.

“I would have preferred if we could find some happy medium, or some other way to celebrate educational attainment,” Cosby said.

But Hannon said that will allow the district to save millions of dollars over the long run as teachers retire, which it could then use to pay for higher starting salaries for teachers.

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.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede