First, the MOU addresses budgetary problems of the past. Until the Superintendent produces a readable, transparent line-item budget that accounts for all monies spent in our school system (i.e., Sam Anderson’s pay of $45,000 for 16 hours per week of work; Broad Academy’s hires of $90,000 plus benefits), I do not believe additional funds are needed for our budget. Knox County Schools and the Board of Education need to be fiscally responsible with the $100 million increase added to the budget since the Superintendent’s arrival—money that has not included significant pay increases for teachers and teaching assistants, which brings me to my next point.
The MOU includes a 2% pay raise for teachers. Individuals in authority with knowledge of the budget have told me that additional funds are available for a larger raise beyond 2%, but 2% is what could be agreed upon in negotiations. We still need to look at raises for our teachers and teaching assistants—NOT for all certified personnel. A 2% pay raise to someone making $112,048.60 on the leadership team is greater than a teacher making $38,860 in the classroom. Not only have we not closed the student achievement gap in Knox County Schools, we have an employee salary gap that increases with every percentage raise for only certified personnel. When a teaching assistant makes $980 a month after taxes without insurance and a part time employee makes $404 a day working two days a week an inequality exists. Our teaching assistants aren't just copying, cutting, and laminating. They are teaching intervention groups and RTI groups.
I, for one, would also like to see Knox County Schools out of the lease/rental business using only properties owned by KCS as we agree to the sale of the Andrew Johnson Building.
I also support the MOU agreeing to let Knox County build the new middle schools for Gibbs and Hardin Valley communities. In my research and conversations with those in the community that have past and current knowledge of the KCS building programs, I believe this will enable these schools to be built more affordably with a savings to tax payers. When more firms are considered, cost should be more effective.
While I would like to have been able to separate the MOU and the Capital Improvement Plan, I was not able to do so for several reasons. The current Capital Improvement Plan includes a renovation for the PHS cafeteria and the purchase of additional land adjacent to HMS and HHS and also includes recognition of the need to complete the preparation and serving area for PMS, which was never completed. As long as the Capital Improvement Plan does not include a new Adrian Burnett school nor calls for replacing the multitude of portable trailers at Adrian Burnett, Copper Ridge, and Powell Elementary, we will not settle. I will continue to fight for a new Adrian Burnett as I have done since before I was sworn to this office. While I believe the Superintendent was visionary in proposing a North Central Elementary School—and I have received vocal criticism for not supporting and demanding it—I believe his plan falls short of addressing the needs of district 7. I would love for you to contact me if you are willing to work and help move the discussion further and create a climate of working with the Commission and the Mayor to see this happen for the children and families.