Shelby County teachers demand contracts with salary amount

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — School is officially out for summer, but many teachers in the Memphis-Shelby County School District will spend their break thinking about salaries and contracts.

Many MSCS teachers say they were required by the district to put their signature on the upcoming year’s contracts, but they take issue with the contracts being void of a salary.

Teachers say they want to know exactly what they are making before they sign. “The name of the system, the teacher’s duties, the teacher’s salary, none of that’s in that contract. It is a bogus contract,” said Keith Williams, Executive Director of the Memphis-Shelby County Education Association (MSCEA). “The law even requires that the district is fined $25 a day for every day that the contract is not correct.”

The teacher’s union is backing its claim with a 2010 Tennessee Code. Code 49-5-408 highlights teacher contracts and states in part, “all teachers must make a written contract with the director of schools or board of education at a fixed salary per month before entering upon their duties in any public elementary or high school.”

The code also states, “failure to comply with this section by either or both parties shall subject the teacher and the director of schools or board of education to a fine of not less than twenty-five dollars.”

“Giving us contracts with not everything filled in, I think it gives us some type of notion that you’re trying to be slick or be underhanded,” said Dejuan Parker, who’s taught in the district for 12 years. “Every employee is deserving of knowing their annual salary by placing those numbers on the contract,” said Rosemary Winters, educator and member of the MSCEA Board of Directors.

We reached out to MSCS about claims the contract reads “Shelby County Schools” rather than “Memphis-Shelby County Schools”. The district referenced its rebranding, saying it would keep its legal name as “Shelby County Board of Education”, but its “Doing Business As” (DBA) would change to “Memphis-Shelby County Schools”.

We also inquired about the contracts allegedly being void of a salary. The district said the contracts they issued offer a base salary that can be found on a district-issued salary schedule. MSCS goes on to say, “specific salaries are not included due to the variables related to a teacher’s school location, duties, hours, etc.”

“Even though they said refer to the rate sheet, we still need to have that on a contract because that’s a binding document that you’re signing,” said Winters. The MSCS statement issued to FOX13 gives further explanation of salary claims, “it is expressly understood and agreed that this assignment is subject to change based upon the needs of the school system and the authority of the superintendent to transfer the teacher from position to position as he may deem necessary and appropriate.”

However, union leaders aren’t backing down and continue to demand the district include the salaries on the contract rather than in an attached salary schedule. “Did you go to work and didn’t know what you were going to make? No,” continued MSCEA leader Keith Williams.

MSCEA leaders told FOX13 the district would not accept “altered” contracts that contained a salary entered in by educators.

Those “altered” contracts were allegedly mailed back to teachers, according to MSCEA.

Williams shared with FOX13 that MSCEA and the teachers plan to attend an upcoming MSCS board meeting where the group would ask that the board accept their self-modified contracts, claiming that based on Tennessee Code 49-5-408, they are within legal boundaries to write in a salary amount.