MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - The road leading toward merged city and county schools is a pot hole riddled trail filled with potential troubles. Now the head of the Memphis Teachers Association is angry the board hasn't considered their ideas about the merger.
The union represents more than six thousand teachers who have a lot to gain, and possibly lose, when the merger takes place.
Sometimes words can be hotter than a four alarm fire. When the head of the Memphis Education Association, Keith Williams, says they’ve been placated, misused and abused by the Unified School Board, that’s hot stuff. Just ask board member Reverend Kenneth Whalum. “According to the teachers union, [the school merger plan] would remove them from a certain bit of protection with regard to hiring, firing, promotions, and teacher evaluations,” he says.
If you’re one of those people who can’t see anything beyond your reflection in the mirror, this story might elicit nothing more than a ho-hum. It does affect you. Memphis is a poor city. It is also a city that scrapes for every nickel and dime it can get. Toss out hundreds of teachers on their collective ears, and things will get really rough. “We’re talking about jobs,” Reverend Whalum says. “We’re talking about significant amounts of money.”
After months of debate, the Unified School Board is working on approving the recommendations of the Transition Planning Commission. Reverend Whalum says it is a stretch to call the school board “unified”, because they’re far from it. The chasm that separates the city and county members is huge, he says, and it might come into play when the Memphis Education Association presents its case. The MEA wants to have a say in the final product. Only city teachers are unionized. “The perception is the Memphis City Schools mismanaged its product and it surrendered its charter. It gave the schools away. And the perception is, especially among the suburban commissioners, why should we listen to you on any matter?”
Memphis Education Association President Keith Williams did not return any of our phone calls. The Unified Board will meet again in a week and a half. Reverend Whalum says he’s been told the union will have just two minutes to state their case.