NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - More than 1,400 teachers decided not to show up for class Friday, over 1,000 of which due to a request for a pay raise higher than 3 percent.
In total, 1,431 are absent. Of those, 1,091 teachers put in for the day off. Some of the teachers still showed up for some reason, however.
A spokesperson for Metro Schools said "it's an unusual day, but the atmosphere is friendly." Students tell News4 that they've been watching movies all day, in one classroom they were doing karaoke.
The school system's HR officer asked central office employees to assist as substitute teachers on Friday. Originally, Metro Schools had planned for 363 teachers to be out.
At McGavock High, 123 teachers originally requested to be absent on Friday.
The following is the original list of other schools with teacher absences:
- Andrew Jackson Elementary - 10
- Antioch High - 17
- Apollo Middle - 14
- Bellevue Middle - 22
- Cane Ridge High - 21
- Glencliff High - 10
- H.G. Hill Middle - 10
- Hillsboro High - 11
- Maplewood High - 13
- McGavock High - 123
- J.T. Moore Middle - 14
- Overton High - 29
- Percy Priest Elementary - 10
- Tusculum Elementary - 11
- Whites Creek High - 13
- Whitsitt Elementary - 10
- Wright Middle - 14
This comes on the heels of Mayor David Briley's proposed budget released earlier this year, offering all Metro Nashville Public Schools employees a 3 percent pay raise, commonly known as a "COLA" raise, long seen as an outdated and inadequate standard cost of living wage adjustment.
The teachers believe this amount is insufficient, and follows a Metro history of budgetary shortfalls that leave teachers without pay increases. The teachers tell News4 that they want 10%.
"We're necessary and we're not expendable," Alexandra Seymour, a teacher at McGavock High School said.
Seymour has been teaching English as a second language at the school for three years. She's part of the more than 100 teachers who will not be at the school on Friday.
"More than anything, I would love to be here for the rest of my life but I don't know that's possible with what I'm getting paid currently," Seymour said.
Dr. Tony Majors, Chief Human Resources Officer, sent the email to Central Office staff:
Good afternoon central office staff, we are tracking schools with high teacher absence rates for tomorrow. We are asking central office employees to assist us by serving as substitutes and assisting with campus supervision tomorrow. We are asking all department heads to encourage their staff to support one of these schools tomorrow if all possible.
A signup sheet was available for Central Office staffers to choose a school to help.
An emailed statement from Metro Nashville Public Schools spokesperson Dawn Rutledge said:
"We have been made aware that there could be a spike in teacher absences tomorrow in response to the mayor's proposed budget. At present, we do not believe that this is a widespread issue. We are monitoring this closely and developing plans to assist schools that may need additional supports as a result."
News4 Reporter Cameron Taylor received a statement from McGavock High students Thursday afternoon expressing support for the teacher protest.
The statement reads:
We, the students of McGavock High School, are here today in heartfelt support of our teachers and our school system.
Unfortunately our teachers have been forced to take unprecedented action. Tomorrow, at least 95% of our staff, including all staff who support students with intellectual & physical disabilities, will not be in this building educating and caring for us. This is an act our teachers take no joy in, however due to Mayor Briley and the Metro Council's failure to enact the board's recommendations, they have been compelled to advocate fr themselves.
All we want as students is a fully funded school system that supports our teachers including salaries that correlate with the increased cost of living in this thriving city - the "IT" city. Teachers should not have to work multiple jobs, live paycheck to paycheck, or have multiple roommates to support themselves, their families, and their students. We implore Mayor Briley and the Metro Council to make MNPS a priority in Nashville.
"There's not enough incentive to want to keep these teachers coming back and want to keep working at this school," Amanda Taylor, a student at McGavock High Schools said.
Mayor David Briley's office issued a statement on Friday about the teachers' sickout:
Mayor Briley thanks the teachers and support staff who went to work today to take care of our children.
He also understands the concerns of teachers about the raise and wants them to know that he is committed to finding additional resources to continue increasing teacher pay through a multi-year approach.
Because of work done this past year to get the budget under control, MNPS will have a $34.9 million increase in operating and debt service funds – up from $5 million last year.
The Mayor is strongly urging the School Board – which decides how this money is used – to use these funds to provide teacher and staff raises.
The Mayor said he would make progress on this issue in his first year and he has. He is confident we can continue to make progress moving forward.