A divided school board voted 5-4 Thursday night to withhold proposed one-time cash bonuses for all employees.
The Hamilton County Board of Education several times had publicly discussed the $400 and $500 bonuses to be paid for mostly with excess federal grant money, as well as some of the school system's general purpose funds.
Most recently the board held a work session last month, where several members said they would prefer the money be spent to extend the life of some grant-funded school-based jobs that otherwise would go away at the end of the school year.
Joe Galloway, who last month said he had been convinced to vote for the bonus, cast his vote against the motion Thursday.
There was an audible gasp in the board room from teachers present when he voted against the bonus.
Galloway said he had talked to teachers in his district, many of whom contacted him, and more than 60 percent of them favored not getting the bonus and allowing the grant-funded positions to be continued.
"If we lose those positions, we don't get them back," he said. "I'm for teachers and I hate to not be able to do something for them."
After the vote, Superintendent Jim Scales, who originally brought the proposal to the board last December, said he was discouraged.
"I'm really saddened and disappointed that we did not see fit to provide a small token to our staff," he said. "But we recognize the authority of the board ... and we're moving forward."
Marilyn Spickard, a teacher at Soddy-Daisy Middle School, attended Thursday's meeting and said she was "extremely disappointed" in the board's decision.
"What does it take to recognize what teachers do in Hamilton County? ... We've got teachers who qualify for food stamps," she said.