Shelby County Schools

Shelby County Schools board cuts $240 million in spending

PHOTO: Tajuana Cheshier/Chalkbeat TN
Several Shelby County School teachers protested budget cuts during Tuesday's called meeting to approve the 2014-15 budget.

The  Shelby County Schools board unanimously passed a budget Tuesday night that slashed more than $240 million in spending and 4,563 positions from the district. The cuts impact virtually every department in the district including world language programs, teacher pay, transportation and alternative schools.

The 2014-15 budget cuts are largely due to the loss of thousands of teachers and students to the six new municipal school districts, the state-operated Achievement School District and the growing charter school sector.

Under the proposal, the district will spend $946 million next year to educate its students, far less than the $1.1 billion it spent this year.

The 2014-15 budget will now be reviewed by the Shelby County Commission on May 7.  The budget will return to the SCS board for final approval on June 2.  The budget must be received by the state’s department of education  by Aug. 1.

Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dorsey Hopson II said his focus will be on strengthening literacy rates and investing in pre-kindergarten.  The district was eliminating more than 40 pre-k classes, now it is restoring 26 of those classes using leftover Race to the Top funds.

“We’ve truly done everything we can to be strategic,” Hopson said. “I wish I could pay teachers a couple hundred thousand a year and keep world languages, but that’s not our reality.”

Administrators have not decided how much individual teacher pay will be cut or whether they will get raises.  Teacher advocates have pointed out that the district is spending 22 percent less on teacher pay and 23 percent less on benefits next year. That compares to a 19 percent overall drop in budget cuts.

Initially, the district planned on using the state-promised 2 percent cost of living increase to fund a differentiated pay schedule.   Gov. Bill Haslam cut the state employee cost of living increase from the budget this month. The district was counting on more than $9 million from the state. Without it, the district is left with $6.2 million.

While the district’s proposed contribution to employee insurance benefits is higher than the current 63 percent, it is still lower than the 70 percent that the district contributed in prior years, advocates argue.

While many areas in the budget faced cuts, the district’s spending on charter schools is projected to grow from $67 million to $78 million – a 15 percent increase. The number of charter schools in the district is slated to continue to expand in coming years.

The new budget also trims 6 percent of the district’s spending on student transportation by outsourcing all bus drivers.

Though it was not discussed at the meeting, the district is also revisiting the structure of its alternative schools and cutting some $2 million in spending on those programs.

Several items protested by community members during last month’s budget forums did not change in the proposed 2014-15 budget including keeping the current school start times, which would mean operating a two bell start system, cutting world language classes in some elementary and middle schools and eliminating the driver’s education program.

Twenty-eight teachers will be impacted by the cuts to the world language classes in some elementary and middle schools.  There had been a big push among parents, teachers and students to prevent the cuts.   The push even involved the American Council on the Teaching Foreign Languages.

Chairman Kevin Woods assured the community that he would still be an advocate for issues brought up during the open budget forums.

“I’m still going to push for later start times in the future,” Woods said.

SCS 2014-15 budget is now available online. Follow this link to review the changes.


Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.