April 20, 2014 - 14:24
Differentiated pay scale eyed
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Article Author: By Emily Dilbeck
This system would setup a program that would reward teachers who were determined to be efficient or higher than efficient with bonuses.

The Polk County School Board held its regular monthly meeting Monday night at Copper Basin High School. Board members present were James Davis, Harmon Hardin, Jayson Lamb, Shawn Pritchett, L.W. Smith, April Trantham, and Gary Silvers

The meeting focused on a presentation from Sylvia Flowers of the State Department on Education. She discussed the implementation of a differentiated pay system. This system would setup a program that would reward teachers who were determined to be efficient or higher than efficient with bonuses. Flowers explained that a differentiated pay system was used to help “expand kids’ access to effective teachers, principals, and school officials.”

This pay system would be made possible by a TIF grant (Teacher Incentive Fund). Roughly 4 million dollars a year would be divided between Polk and two other school systems. These funds would be in place for 5 years, with the school system moving towards becoming self-sufficient at the end of the 5 years.

L.W. Smith asked Flowers what sort of evaluation teachers would have to undergo. Flowers replied student achievement, in-class observations, student evaluations, and leadership roles would all be used as factors. She suggested that awards for other outstanding personal be considered as well.

Gary Silvers asked Flowers where this money for bonuses was going to come from. Flowers said that instead of using the State’s pay scale, the School system would create its own in order to determine a base salary and bonus amounts. Flowers suggested that the system use the 2.5% raise the State provides to each school system. Rather than giving a flat 2.5% to all teachers, the TIF program encourages schools to allocate the money to teachers determined to be outstanding.

Silvers said he didn’t think Polk County would be the same as other systems that had implemented this program, since it doesn’t have local revenue increase or significant growth each year to provide extra funds. Some teachers, he added, would need to be looked at differently than others. He used an example of how a high school Calculus teacher would need to be evaluated in a separate manner than an elementary school Special Education teacher.

Flowers said that each evaluation would be tailored for separate classes and grades and would not be a one-size-fits-all policy. She said a differentiated pay system would also be useful to recruit and retain the best teachers in the area and make Polk County competitive with surrounding counties.

Joe T. Wood, former Director of Schools in Lexington City, explained to the Board the process his system had gone through when implementing the differentiated pay policy. Wood said the process hadn’t been overnight, but that a committee made up of 70% teachers, as well as principals, a School Board member, and 2 community members, had come together to work out the proper bonus rates and pay scale. He added the teachers had come up with the qualifications for an outstanding teacher themselves.

Copper Basin High School Principal Jared Bigham said that to his knowledge teachers could opt-out of the differentiated pay system and retain their current salary. Flowers agreed, but added that teachers who opted-out would not be eligible for the 2.5% raise from the State.

Several teachers present said they had had been employed by the School system for so many years that their pay was effectively “frozen,” meaning their base salary no longer increased. Whereas in the current system, a younger teacher is eligible for pay raises and may receive incentives for additional degrees they pursue.

Director of Schools James Jones told the School Board if “they opened their minds to this, teachers like these would be able to receive higher pay” based on their evaluations.

Silvers asked Flowers how Polk County had become involved in this program. Flowers said she had talked to Director Jones. Silvers then asked what the Board needed to do now. Jones said they needed to be ready to take a step forward.

“We’ve already begun the process of removing ineffective teachers,” Jones said, “isn’t it time to go to the other side and reward excellent teachers?”

Silvers said the Board couldn’t do anything more that night, but that Jones needed to move forward and form a committee.

Bigham interjected that the school system was already two months behind and would need to make plans quickly. Silvers said again that the Board would do nothing more that night, but that Bigham and Jones would need to handle the creation of committee to discuss the pay system.

Before a differentiated pay system can be put in place, the School Board must vote to approve it. It will then go for State approval before it is implemented.

The School Board also voted to approve the sale of 3 to 4 buses and okayed an overnight trip for the Copper Basin High School Band to Gatlinburg.

Corina Jones of Coordinated School Health presented the Board with an award Coordinated School Health received for an excellent partnership with the State Department and achieving 11 of its 12 goals. Nutrition, physical education, and academic wellness were all a part of these goals.

The award included a $5,000 prize, which Jones said will be split evenly between the Schools and used to buy necessities like bandages and nursing supplies.

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