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Mobile Teacher Bonuses As Much As $40,000

Ohanian Comment: Note that the Feds are financing this plan. The schools in question will be vacated--all staff is let go (including cafeteria workers). Then those deemed highly qualified can reapply--and compete with all the others who want the money.

Highly qualified teachers can get as much as $40,000 in bonuses over the next five years for working at one of five low performing schools, according to further details of Mobile County schools' new incentive plan released Wednesday.

Principals could get up to $60,000 at the selected schools: Brazier and Hall elementary and Calloway-Smith, Mae Eanes and Mobile County Training middle schools.

The incentive program will cost the system $1.8 million, which will be taken out of federal funding.

The five schools were chosen because they had the county's lowest scores on the Stanford Achievement Test. School system officials said the new plan would attract higher quality teachers and administrators to the underachieving schools, thus improving student learning and test scores.

The school board originally considered a plan that would have given teachers $16,000 and principals $24,000 for three-year commitments to the schools.

Higher bonuses added:

But when the board approved the measure Tuesday night, its members voted on an addendum to the plan, listing the higher bonuses and the five-year commitment requirements. Those details were not made available to the public until Wednesday morning.

"It seems that we're building this plane as we fly it," said board member John Holland, who voted against the proposal. Holland said the board never received a complete written explanation of the plan it approved.

Highly qualified teachers who are now at those five schools can reapply for their jobs and the bonuses, but they'll be competing against other teachers who want the money -- which all totaled is more than a year's pay.

Mobile County teachers make an average yearly salary of $37,200.

While cafeteria workers, bus drivers and other support personnel will have to reapply for their jobs at the five schools, they will get no bonuses as originally planned, so the system can fund the larger total bonuses for teachers and principals.

Assistant principals can get up to $45,000 in bonuses, and librarians and counselors can get as much as $40,000.

Extra money for textbooks:

In addition to the bonuses, the Mobile County Public School System is giving the five schools $3.4 million on top of what they normally receive to buy textbooks and other materials, provide extra teacher training and other means of support for the troubled schools.

The employees will get a bonus at the beginning of each of the five years. If standardized test scores improve, those employees can get more bonuses at the end of the year.

Teachers, for example, would get $4,000 each fall -- an automatic total of $20,000 over the five-year hitch. They would be eligible for another $4,000 at the end of each school year, based on student performance.

Principals at the five selected schools said Wednesday said they hadn't heard all the details of the plan, and a representative of the local branch of the Alabama Education Association teachers union said he fielded at least a dozen calls from teachers who were uncertain about their jobs or their school's funding.

"I'm not opposed to us taking steps to help the students in these schools. We're all willing to help them reach these goals," said Wade Perry, with the AEA. "But at this point, we can't say whether we have a problem with the plans or not, because it keeps changing hour-to-hour, it seems like."

Gloria Burks, principal at George Hall Elementary in Mobile's Maysville community, said Wednesday she had been away from the school most of the day in meetings. When she returned in the afternoon, two teachers asked her about their jobs.

"I haven't seen any part of the plan," she said. "But everything has a possibility to work. I'm sure this plan has the possibility for success. Like everything else, it will come down to the commitment of the people involved."

Burks said she would like to stay at Hall and she hopes the new faculty will come in under a smooth transition.

Target date of April 1:

Tate said he hopes to have the hundreds of teaching and other positions at the five schools filled by April 1.

Teachers who would like to apply for the incentives must complete an application that includes an essay on what they have done to improve student achievement at their current school.

Teachers chosen to work at the five schools must be labeled as highly qualified by the state, meaning they have passed a standardized test in their subject area or taken a certain number of college courses in it. They also must have at least one year's teaching experience.

School system officials are calling the five schools "transformation" schools and are saying the plan to improve the quality of the staffs at the schools will benefit the children.

Support for the program:

The Mobile Area Education Foundation citizen activist group supports the plan.

Beverly Cooper, with the foundation, told the board Tuesday that the new incentives will "bring the best to those who historically have gotten the least."

In accordance with the federal No Child Left Behind Act, school systems across the country are trying to eliminate the educational gap that exists between poor minorities and non-poor whites. Mobile County is the first school system in Alabama to offer an incentive program to attract highly qualified teachers to schools in the most need.

At least 97 percent of the student body at each of the five targeted schools is black, and 90 percent is poor.

— Rena Havner
Mobile Register


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