Staff earns cash for grades

Springboro giving employees 1 percent bonuses because district earned ‘Excellent with Distinction’ rating from the state.

Springboro Community City Schools is planning to pay staff more than $200,000 in bonuses as a result of the district earning the state’s highest report card rating.

“In my opinion, this is a small token for (the staff’s) high level of performance and commitment to educating all Springboro students,” Superintendent Todd Petrey said. “I’m really proud of this staff for being willing to look at that merit-pay option.”

These 1 percent bonuses will be given out in November and will cost the district, which is rated “Excellent with Distinction”, around $220,000. Classroom teachers will receive an average bonus of $556, based on Ohio Department of Education salary estimates for fiscal year 2011.

Springboro school board member Jim Rigano, a founder of the fiscally conservative Educate Springboro, said that anything that rewards excellence is a good thing.

“The state’s requiring that teachers and principals be evaluated based on student achievement, and it’s just a matter of time before it becomes part of people’s pay,” said Rigano, noting that state report cards already measure student growth. “If you get an excellent evaluation, you should be compensated.”

Although it is unique in the Dayton area for school district employees to be compensated for report card ratings, Michele Prater of the Ohio Education Association said there are about 20-25 districts across the state that offer similar financial incentives.

“There could be a few more, since districts use varying language to describe the compensation — $250 bonus, $500 bonus, 1 percent, 2 percent,” Prater said. “But it’s a locally bargained issue.”

Tipp City Exempted Village Schools was the only other local district that reported compensation for report card ratings, but the Miami County district limits that reward to one staff member. The superintendent gets a 2 percent performance bonus if the district earns a rating of “Excellent” or “Excellent with Distinction.”

Tipp City Superintendent John Kronour, whose district has earned an “Excellent” rating in eight of the last 10 years, said he would be in favor of expanding the bonus to apply to the district staff.

“We don’t have the dollars in our budget currently to fund such a concept, but I believe that this would be viewed favorably by voters,” Kronour said.

Funding was seen as prohibitive for other districts, as well.

“We can only offer a good ol’ pat on the back for remaining ‘Excellent with Distinction,’” Valley View Superintendent William Kirby said. “(But) I believe future discussions … will involve paying teachers in alignment with student performances.”

The Springboro Education Association negotiated this district report card bonus, which is called a “merit-incentive pay increase” as part of a two-year deal in early 2011. SEA President Scott Maney said the concept may be addressed again during the union’s contract negotiations scheduled for this spring.

“We’ll have to look at complete and total compensation and benefits,” Maney said. “The whole idea of any compensation is what the whole package looks like. We’re certainly not opposed to it, but it depends on the package.”

Every Springboro staff member — teachers, administrators, custodians, bus drivers, etc. — will receive this bonus, according to Treasurer Tracy Jarvis. It will not be added to base salaries, which have been frozen for five years. Step raises have been frozen for two years.

Tiffany Carlisle, the mother of five Springboro students, said she thought this type of compensation was a positive but added that it should be tied to individual performance.

She also noted that good teachers should be regularly compensated, in reference to the district’s pay freeze. She said she worries the district will lose its best and brightest teachers if that is not addressed.

“If you keep putting off the oil changes in your car, the engine’s going to blow,” Carlisle said. “If you keep putting off professional development or rewarding teachers, then we’re going to have big problems.”

Kettering Superintendent Jim Schoenlein, whose district also earned “Excellent with Distinction” this fall, said he was not in favor of blanket compensation for report card ratings.

“That’s an easy way to do differentiated compensation,” he said. “When you do it that way you don’t have to get into the tough business of quantifying or justifying why somebody should be paid more than somebody else.”

Schoenlein said it is important to get the teacher evaluation model right before moving on to differentiated compensation.

Ohio House Bill 153, passed in 2011, states that school districts must adopt a teacher evaluation policy by July 1, 2013, that is 50 percent based on student growth.

Districts across the state are in the process of determining specific criteria that will be used for these new teacher and principal evaluations, which then may determine compensation. Federal mandates, such as Race to the Top, also link performance to compensation.

Two local districts, Vandalia-Butler and Oakwood, are among those that have implemented or are in the process of implementing merit-based pay structures.

Petrey said it is not yet clear if report card ratings will play a role in Springboro’s evolving teacher evaluation model.

Regardless, Maney said earning these bonuses has provided a morale boost to Springboro teachers this fall.

“Springboro is a great district; there are some negatives and some problems, but we’re getting the job done,” he said. “This was a real shot in the arm.”

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