Linda Holtzclaw was the last public forum speaker at the November school board meeting. When she stepped up to the podium, it was clear that she meant business:
“I come to you today as a classroom teacher with 32 years of experience teaching in Knox County Schools,” she said, explaining that South-Doyle Middle School, where she has taught for the past 20 years, has lost 60 teachers in the past two years, and that student behavior has become increasingly problematic.
In a phone interview last week, Superintendent Jim McIntyre confirmed that performance-based pay incentives will not be offered to teachers in the upcoming school year. The only exception is for teachers and administrators in Teacher Advancement Program (TAP) schools.
McIntyre said Rodney Russell, director of human capital strategy, is chairing a group of teachers to rework the old APEX bonus formula that was funded primarily through grants such as Race to the Top. The bonuses earned in the 2014-15 school year will be paid in November or December, he said, from a $3 million, one-time grant proposed by Mayor Tim Burchett from the county’s fund balance.
Knox County school board members were faced with a stark choice last week: Approve a memorandum of understanding between Mayor Tim Burchett and Superintendent James McIntyre that leaves teachers with half the pay raise they’d been led to expect, or be stuck with Burchett’s original budget offer, which would leave the school system with a $6.5 million shortfall and mean no raise at all.
Copper Ridge Elementary School parents aren’t the only ones protesting the loss of a beloved teacher, and Copper Ridge’s Christina Graham isn’t the only non-tenured Knox County teacher whose spotless record couldn’t save her from an abrupt, unexplained termination because she didn’t “fit the vision” the principal had for her school.
Early last month, Mount Olive Elementary School teacher Gloria Ray-Scheberle achieved rock-star status when she helped coach the school’s Destination Imagination to the global finals. No Knox County team had made the global finals in the past five years, and the team had enthusiastic community support.