Alternate Teacher Compensation Models – Why in the world would I vote for it.

Tuesday night, our board had one of the more controversial proposals before us in the way that we compensate teachers. The discussion has been driven over the past several years by work that has been funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation brought in a part of Dr. Cash’s teacher reform effort. The effectiveness effort really revolved around a couple of key areas:

Teacher Recruitment and Retention

Professional Development


Almost all of the expenses of this work has been paid for by a grant from the foundation. So if you hear that we are paying consultants to finish work on the models, all of that money comes from the Gates Foundation and can only be used for that work. So I want to dispel any myths that we are cutting teachers and paying for consultants out of county money because we are not.

As far as the wisdom of alternate compensation models, there is data that supports it and data that does not. Much like the traditional models. The center piece of the compensation reform revolved around pay based upon performance of children vs pay for length of service and higher education degree attained. Our model as it stands today, pays more to teacher for years of service and advanced degree attained regardless of the educational outcomes. So you could have a new teacher with a bachelor’s degree scoring as a level 5 teacher and an experienced, master degree teacher scoring a level 2, and the less effective teacher making much more money.

In private industry, our companies invest in professional development for employees expecting for it to yield a return to the company in a measurable metric. You do not get automatic pay bumps for master’s degrees typically. But if your performance increases, you get a pay bump. If the private industry were to take a position that every employee who went out and got a degree would get an automatic bump that sustains year-over-year, a company would go bankrupt.

And that is what is happening in the public school systems. Step-increases, coupled with automatic pay increases for advanced degrees, and a pretty nice public pension consumes 70-75% of our budgets. So the model is not sustainable.

My support going forward was for multiple compensation models that invest in professional development and advanced degrees(as in the district would pay for it) but compensated more based on outcomes. My understanding is that these models are not final and my expectation is that these will continue to evolve over the next year. I also understand that not all details are worked out for all subject matter expertise.

And supporting alternate compensation should not be misconstrued that we are trying to hurt teachers. In reality, those teachers who bring it everyday and perform and get results will see benefits in this model. Those who are not won’t. And this is how we do it in the private sector. And this type of model and it is effective.

And lastly, there would be no reason to go through this effort if we did not have a problem associated with it. And we do have a problem where we are heavily compensating teachers who should not be teaching at the expense of those who are getting it done. It exists. I am a parent and I see it.

And I don’t drink Bill Gates or “reform” cool-aid. I just want us to re-evaluate and find a more sustainable compensation model that makes sense.


Latest Copies of Rezoning and Gifts and Donations Policy

Here are the latest marked up copies of the policies. The feedback has been great and you can thank Superintendent Dorsey Hopson for getting these changed.


Attendance Zone Policy 2 (3-20-13) for March 2013BdMtg


0000 Grants, Gifts, Donations and Sponsorships

Proposed County School Board Map -13 Members

Attached is a look at the school board map proposed by the county commission for 2013-2014 school year. This is what was shared in committee yesterday.

School Board Districts-Proposed

Take a look and provide feedback to your county commissioners.

A Response for Mike Ritz

Chairman Ritz,

I wanted to send you a note in response to an article that you wrote in the Memphis Flyer this week. First, I would like to say that we are all entitled to our opinions and views and I respect that. However, I would expect that man of your stature and regard in this community would make a few more assertions based upon fact than opinion. In this case, I will help enlighten you:

#1: Your first assertion is that we need a special master because based upon a discussion with a suburban mayor and a school board member, you don’t feel that the district will open with the best chance for success in the fall.I am not sure to whom you have spoken but the lion share of the planning to transfer the administration to SCS is complete.

  • Our school boundaries are set.
  • Children who live in a zone know where they will go to school.
  • The transfer process is working great.
  • The optional school process is working fine.
  • We know that we are teaching common core curriculum and driving toward its implementation
  • We have a superintendent under contract until we decide to replace him which is the board’s prerogative
  • We have approved the TEI model to guarantee effective teachers and leaders in school.
  • We have voted to outsource custodial and are awaiting updated RFP’s to award a contract.
  • We are awaiting final RFP’s to make a final decision on whether or not to outsource busses
  • We are merging the rest of our policies and most are not that different since most are based on state law.
  • Our budget will be set for May like usual. I expect it to be substantially smaller than 145. Closer to 40-50 million deficit.
  • We will remain SCS
  • And finally, the administration is implementing most operational decisions to marry staffing models up with the final budget.

#2: Next, you make the assertion that 6 suburban representatives are playing obstructionists on the board to favor the suburbs.

Obviously, this is an opinion and not based on fact since the 6 of us have led the charge to implement policies based upon the following standards:

  • Does it increase educational outcomes
  • Does it make education delivery more efficient?
  • Does it deliver education at the lowest cost?

 As far as if we are supporting the position of our suburban mayors in the legislature, I would contend that you are doing a fine job of that without us. We represent our people, not a mayor. And here is what our people want:

  • A great  and cost-effective educational experience for their children

They believe that this better happens in a municipal school district. However, the votes of our suburban board members have always supported the premise to make the SCS system the best it can be while we exist on the board. And I back that assertion up in my statements on WKNO Behind the Headlines when I say “All educational systems in Shelby County must be great for the fiscal and social health of the community.” And I challenge you to find one vote to the contrary we have taken on the board.

#3: You assert that we dragged our feet on getting rid of Kriner Cash

The suburban representatives voted to do this early on and favored a buy-out. we did not drag our feet. It was a matter of timing.

#4: You assert that we approved the 145 million dollar budget and many more similar actions or inactions to add fuel to the fire of suburban mayors and other critics of a unified system.

While that may have been an output of the budget process, the suburban reps voted for the 145 million because the new budget reflected significant cuts in staffing in the old SCS which categorically is in opposition to principle number one to not impact quality of education.I added the 80 million back in the budget to cover leveling up the staffing model. Now ,we all know that we won’t get that much but I wanted to inform the populace as that their education was getting impacted due to the merger.

You also draw some assertions that these municipalities cannot afford to have their own school district. Well, I can unequivocally say that, if a charter school can run on BEP, Local, and Federal dollars then a significant scaled down muni-school district has a chance.

Finally, I would like to add that the actions of the county commission by far and away have fueled the action taking in Nashville more than anything we have done: Example:

  • Trying to enter into an agreement with the School Board to strip it of its fiduciary responsibility for how it disposes of assets.
  • Negotiating in private(without the schools board) charter school deals that would have been taken to the judge to mint in a consent decree and strip powers from the school board.
  • Continuing litigation that drains the county of its fiscal reserves.
  • Threatening to expand a Shelby County School Board to expand it to 13 which will systematically undo and all progress that has been made in redefining education in the county.
  • Promising to not put the sales tax on referendum and lying to the voters Shelby County by doing.

Based upon my discussions with legislators, the county commission actions have been the primary drivers in actions that have been taken. Not the school board.

In closing, I would ask that before publishing an article and speaking of it as fact and making assertions based upon your ignorance and pulling my name into it., Please call me and validate your facts. I would be a happy to set you straight.


David Reaves

Concerning School Closures

I have heard a lot of discussion lately about closing schools. The TPC plan specifically targeted 21 schools for closure to save money to the tune of 21 million dollars. I have heard this repeatedly from county commissioners, TPC members, the media, etc.

There has also been some disappointment with how many school have been voted to be closed. 5.

Now while I understand many see dollar signs to cut the budget, I think it is important to remember that I measure decisions regarding education based upon 3 factors:

1) Does it impact educational outcomes long-term?

2) Does it make a process more efficient long-term?

3) Does it do it at the lowest long-term cost?

In the case of closing schools, I think to accomplish the goals above, schools facilities must be looked at in a broader context. While we have those who believe we should cut for short-term financial gain, we do not address long-term sustainability or community impact. Let’s take one example:

Closing Coro Lake Elementary and rezone students to Doubletree and Westwood.

1) Does it impact educational outcomes long-term? It absolutely impacts education outcomes since Coro Lake is in good  standing and we are sending children to a failing school (Westwood) and  Reward School(Doubletree). How would you feel to have your child rezoned to a failing school? Also, we are doing nothing to address the educational program disparity in many of these schools in comparison to their optional counterparts.

2) Does it make a process more efficient long-term? Without a district view, we have no idea.

3) Does it do it at the lowest long-term cost? In this case, no. We would have to bus kids to their new schools. We would have to provide school security at the closed school. Capital degradation occurs due to idle capacity. (This is why the TPC numbers did not jive with the district numbers.) We get about 50% cost recovery.

So the question remains: What is the solution on school closures? I think that the question is much broader than that. I think the right question is:

What is the optimal school formula (school size, education programs, staffing formula) in which we can provide the same educational programs at every school across the district?

Once we determine this formula, then we can create a strategic plan for implementation across the district.The strategic plan could identify locations of schools, the need to close multiple schools, or build new schools, or add-on to existing schools. The goal will be to give back a significantly better school to the community than we close.

Kevin Woods and I have been asked to lead this discussion. It is the right discussion and the right planning.

Closing schools ad hoc to cut costs with no real plan for improving educational outcomes is a travesty that I cannot support.


Board Meeting Thoughts from Last Night

OK.. I have to say I asked for this. I remember sitting around Judge Hardy Mayes conference table with other parties to the lawsuit a couple of years ago hashing out the terms of an agreement for consolidation. One of the central pieces was preservation of current board members and 7 appointed members to represent all of Shelby County creating a 23 member board. In order to tilt the board suburban, I agreed.

SO fast forward to last night: AS I listen to Sara Lewis rant about a conspiracy, Patrice Robinson castigate our staff, and Martavious Jones throw up monopoly numbers, for the 100th time, I regretted cutting that deal.

Last night’s board meeting was tough. It was filled with drama. It was filled with unethical, dirty underhanded tricks from vendors. It was filled with insanity and sanity. However, at the end of the day, we protected educational services in the county by restructuring our custodial and benefits packages to generate cost saving in the area of 28-30 million.

These were not easy decisions. They were hard.These are people’s lives we are dealing with. However, our old SCS board was used to making these hard decisions. The old MCS board hung these decisions on the back of the quality education for all of their students.

It has become clear to me as I spend more time in this system that it can be so much better. And you will see as our board contracts and as we begin to lay out a 10 year strategy that we can fix the inefficient, jobs-centric entity known as the MCS.

The final thought from last night that struck me was the entry of Aramark at the last second by making a public plea before board members that they would match the GCA bid for contract services. We use a closed bid process with a scoring matrix to choose the vendor bringing integrity to the process and leveling the playing field to get the best bid. Once Aramark saw the bid, they stood up and promised to match it and also invest 14 million back in the community.

Obviously, they influenced the board and now the staff has been asked to get lowest bid from both Aramark and GCA. What Aramark did was dirty and totally outside of our board process. I will not vote for them even if they are lowest bid because they sacrificed the integrity of the process. Who’s to say that they would not screw us if they get a chance?

We are making progress… Slowly but surely..  But it can be directly attributed to the decision that we made with the judge 2 years ago.

And he may be ready to fix it…