VOL. 128 | NO. 168 | Wednesday, August 28, 2013
School Board Recognizes Labor Groups, Moves Toward Smaller Size
By Bill Dries
The last meeting of the 23-member countywide school board ended Tuesday, Aug. 27, with gift bags for the 16 school board members whose positions are abolished Friday, as the month ends.
The board becomes a seven-member body starting Sept. 1, dropping the nine legacy Memphis City Schools board positions and the seven legacy Shelby County Schools board positions that were part of the board starting in October 2011.
On the school board’s agenda Tuesday were three resolutions, each from members of the old Memphis City Schools board who were attending their last meetings.
Two were approved.
One was a resolution by board member Patrice Robinson requesting the Tennessee Comptroller’s office review the school system’s healthcare plan and report on the feasibility of the school system’s employees joining either the Shelby County government health care insurance plan or the state government’s group insurance plan.
The other resolution recognized unions that had represented employees under the old Memphis City Schools system as a representative of some employees. The resolution by board member Dr. Jeff Warren does not recognize the unions for purposes of collective bargaining.
The resolution was the most debated item of the evening with Warren saying it was a simple recognition that the school system would talk with the union leaders representing teachers and other employees.
Other board members, including Chris Caldwell, thought that union members in the audience might believe it was a formal recognition in terms of bargaining rights.
Plumbers, carpenters and other craft trade workers were among those in the audience. The workers from the legacy Memphis City Schools system complained that craft trade workers for the legacy Shelby County Schools system are paid more than them.
Interim superintendent Dorsey Hopson said the higher pay for the workers who are all now a part of a single school system will see a leveling up over a three year period with the inequity remaining for now. The three-year period is part of the state law that sets the terms of schools mergers.
School board member David Pickler said the passage of the resolution reflected the intent of the 23-member board. But he added that he did not consider it binding on the seven-member board.
Hopson said state law prohibits collective bargaining with or without such a resolution.
The board deferred action on a resolution by board member Betty Mallott to move toward setting up some method for more objectively judging the performance of charter schools. Hopson requested the indefinite delay saying he and his staff plan to come back to the board with a more detailed plan.
In other development, Hopson reiterated to the school board that he and Memphis Police brass as well as the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office continue to review school security measures.
Hopson said the problems in the first month of the school year have primarily been the result of “jurisdiction issues” between the two law enforcement agencies.
Elementary schools began using hand held metal detectors last week as part of the reaction to a kindergarten student at Westside Elementary School who brought a gun to school in his backpack. The gun went off in the backpack inside the school. No one was injured. But the incident exposed the jurisdiction issues Hopson spoke of.
Hopson told the board ordering more of the hand held metal detectors for the elementary schools for all to have them will mean spending an extra $18,000 to $20,000 in the current fiscal year.
He also said the emerging security considerations will not amount to a “one size fits all” security policy for every school.