Teachers, consider yourself warned.
Superintendent Carol Johnson had strong words for misbehaving teachers at the most recent board meeting of the Memphis City Schools (MCS).
"If you choose to violate school board policy, you will be dealt with," Johnson said. She reminded the audience that the board sets policy on behalf of the citizenry and warned that offenses that may have been overlooked in previous administrations won't be. "Failure to follow or deliberate attempts to thwart board policy are grounds for serious consequences, including termination."
The words came as part of the superintendent's update on the situation at Hamilton High School. After a scandal involving a football coach fathering a student's child, a schoolwide investigation turned up allegations of cheating and reports that another coach, Ted Anderson, paddled and verbally abused his student athletes.
Johnson apologized to the students and families of Hamilton High and said that administrative transfers and disciplinary actions against the involved parties would take a few weeks. However, she suspended basketball coach Anderson "indefinitely" and transferred him from Hamilton.
"One of the best ways to get students' attention ... is to bench them and let them sit out play," she said. "Most students participate in sports because they want to play and benching them is better punishment [than corporal punishment]. Coach Anderson most certainly violated board policy."
The district is also reviewing test protocols to "make sure the highest integrity is maintained," Johnson said.
The board was also presented with information about The New Teacher Project (TNTP), a national nonprofit that has studied how urban districts discourage the best qualified teachers from working there. Under a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, MCS will receive more than $1 million in resources and help from TNTP over the next three years as part of an urban teacher-hiring initiative. The school district will be responsible for a maximum of $300,000 a year. The hope is that, with TNTP's help, MCS can start the school year with fewer teaching vacancies and more highly qualified teachers.
"This will help us rethink some of the things that have been real barriers," Johnson said. Some candidates have felt that their "applications were lost in a never-never land. Then they were hired right away by Shelby County or one of the private schools and we wonder why we didn't get them."