Incentive pay bid for math teachers

Published 9:29 pm Monday, July 1, 2013

At King’s Fork High School Monday, Terry Napier, director of facilities and planning for Suffolk Public Schools, addresses School Board members during their annual retreat. The event traversed a broad range of issues, including incentive pay for high school math teachers.

At King’s Fork High School Monday, Terry Napier, director of facilities and planning for Suffolk Public Schools, addresses School Board members during their annual retreat. The event traversed a broad range of issues, including incentive pay for high school math teachers.

High school math teachers would have extra motivation to go above and beyond under an incentive system Suffolk Public Schools wants to introduce with state funding.

The school district is applying to the Virginia Department of Education’s Strategic Compensation Grants initiative, which the 2013 General Assembly funded with $7.5 million for fiscal 2014, according to Suzanne Rice, the district’s new human resources manager.

High school math teachers are being singled out to benefit because poor student performance in that subject is responsible for two of three high schools falling short of full accreditation, Rice said.

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“We thought, perhaps, we should look at the two schools accredited with warning, and the problem we have had staffing math,” she said.

A committee with teachers from high school math departments is developing the application, due July 15, Rice said.

In 2011-2012, a pilot dubbed the Virginia Performance-Pay Incentive Initiative occurred in 25 of the state’s hard-to-staff schools, providing incentive payments up to $5,000 for exemplary teachers and up to $3,000 on top for teachers in schools with federal School Improvement Grants. Participating schools had to implement new performance standards and teacher evaluation systems.

Guidelines state that grant applications for the more recent allocation need to detail how the division would meet a list of criteria, including involving stakeholders in implementation and measurable goals for student performance.

Suffolk Public Schools has decided upon a point system piloted in Salem, according to Rice.

Teachers earn points based on measurable objectives, such as students’ academic growth and attendance, which determines how the pot is divided.

For instance, Rice said, a teacher with five points would earn a smaller bonus than a colleague who earned 15 points.

But the five-point teacher would still get a bonus, and Rice and district Superintendent Deran Whitney thus declared the system “non-competitive.”

“The caveat is you can’t exceed $5,000” per teacher, Rice said.

“We hope it provides a motivation and incentive to our math departments.”

Grants will be announced Aug. 1. “We may ask for $500,000 but we don’t know how much” the district would get, Rice said.

Board member Judith Brooks-Buck commended the plan, saying, “I think it’s an excellent spin on pay-for-performance” that would help retain quality teachers.