Complaints from teachers and a parent were heard by the School Board last week at their first meeting of the 2009-2010 school year.
Speaking as a substitute for the Grievance Chair of the Marshall County Education Association, Lori Beardsley completed a step in the formal grievance process by telling board members about MCEA's grievances.
These relate to the posting of positions.
"Let us know what's available," Beardsley pleaded. "Give us an equal opportunity to apply."
Among the positions that Beardsley said had been filled without being posted was supervisor of transportation. Because the length of the contract and the salary had been changed, this was considered a new position, which must be posted, according to MCEA's contract with the Board of Education.
The job of girls' basketball coach at Lewisburg Middle School was also filled without being posted, according to the MCEA.
Mentor positions were advertised, and some teachers applied, but then director of schools Stan Curtis decided to change the qualifications, so the jobs were re-posted.
"Our contract says the qualifications cannot be changed unless you have no applicants," Beardsley said.
(In the end, Curtis never hired any mentors, and the positions are no longer in the budget.)
"A lot of this is perception," board member Craig Michael pointed out. "Perception is important in building trust. We have to be very careful of how we're perceived: actions speak louder than words.
"We got off to a bad start with the transportation supervisor," Michael continued. "The board did not approve an updated job description or a salary before he was hired."
Colin Beatty made the MCEA's monthly report to the board.
"My intent is to keep it positive," Beatty said, but after less than a week of school, problems have already been brought to MCEA's attention.
* some teachers are not getting their full 30 minutes of "duty free" lunch.
* science kits that come with the textbooks have not been distributed to all of the classrooms.
* elementary teachers have lost up to 80 minutes of planning time per week, cutting them down to the state-mandated minimum of just 30 minutes per day, which they do not consider adequate.
"We need things to happen to make it positive," concluded Beatty.
Later in the meeting, more questions were asked and answered about the science kits.
"Is all material distributed?" asked Michael.
"It's all distributed in kindergarten through 3rd grade," answered Curtis. "We're meeting about it tomorrow (Aug. 14)."
"The kits come by the number of books we order," explained K-6 supervisor of instruction Becky Hill. "We always have issues with numbers; we're trying to find equitable ways to distribute and make sure each kid has what they need for the experiments."
"We'll be starting the second week of school," Michael said. "It would be nice to get the materials into the classrooms."
A concerned parent, David McDonald, addressed the board about the decision to place his son in "transition" rather than 1st grade at Chapel Hill Elementary School.
McDonald's son joined a kindergarten class at CHES midway through last year, after the family moved to Tennessee from South Carolina, and did miss about 19 days of school due to illness.
McDonald said he had read through all the board policies and nowhere found "the school system giving weight to the parents' opinion."
"No one has given it as much thought as I have," McDonald said. "I've spoken with Mr. Delk (CHES principal) and we have different objectives. I'd like him to give a parent the opportunity to drive their child to achieve.
"Holding a kindergartener back - that's up to a teacher," McDonald said. "The decision was possibly based on a shorter term goal."