A teaching moment: Carter presents performance pay plan

Sandra Clark
Editor

Dr. Jimmy Carter and a team of teachers have devised a plan for performance pay that meets state requirements and makes sense. Carter unveiled his plan at the Feb. 20 school board meeting.

Unlike the turmoil we’ve seen in Knox County, the local plan should find smooth sailing with the Board of Education and with educators themselves. After all, it’s hard to argue with more pay for more work. And it’s easy to see how tutoring kids and mentoring teachers can improve academic performance.

Change in public education is coming, and it is past due. The question is whether it’s implemented with a club or a velvet glove. Jim McIntyre could learn from Jimmy Carter.

“I wanted a plan that is based on our county’s needs,” Carter said in an interview Feb. 25. “So we met with teachers and formed an advisory committee. I told them how much we have to work with ($150,000 to $175,000 extra from the state for school year 2014-15) and asked them how we could best spend this to improve student achievement.”

Carter said several ideas were kicked around, including restoration of a pay cut a few years back. “But somebody else said, ‘How does our pay for sick days help students?’

“I was proud of them. It was an ‘aha’ moment,” he said. “This is not just paperwork for the state. It’s about improving education – helping teachers, helping kids.”

Here’s the short version:

Teachers are evaluated four times a year on a rubric, criteria for effective teaching. Principals handle the evaluations with a pre- and post-evaluation conversation with each teacher. Each gets a rank, 1-5, with 3 being “meets expectations.”

Only teachers ranked 3, 4 or 5 are eligible for the performance pay, and not everyone will get it. “A level 5 physical education teacher might not get the extra money if we need tutoring in math, for instance,” Carter said.

Based on formative assessment (continual testing), students not at expected levels in math and reading/language arts are identified. School administrators determine tutoring needs, request applicants and select tutors.

Teachers who receive a 1 or 2 (performing below expectations) can get a mentor teacher (a level 3, 4 or 5 selected by administrators) who will observe their class and also model best practices. A pacing guide will dictate content expected to be taught within each 9-week period.

A lead teacher will receive extra pay for coordinating the PLC (professional learning community) in each school.

Carter said some money might be used for hard-to-staff positions (such as high school math).

“This money is not a bonus. It will provide opportunities for higher-performing staff (to earn more),” Carter said.

Although current staff and those part-way through a program won’t see a pay cut, the increased pay previously given for advanced degrees will be paid only for those who use that degree in their daily work. For instance, a math teacher would earn extra for an advanced degree in math, but not for an advanced degree in administration.

Unlike in Knox County, the extra pay won’t be based on student test scores or principal evaluations.

Carter said it’s just not fair to evaluate teachers in non-tested areas on other teachers’ work. And he didn’t want to put added pressure on his principals that would come if their evaluations put money directly into teachers’ pockets.

The Union County plan offers more pay for more work. Who can argue with that?

 

Where’s Mike?

The elephant in the room that is Union County politics is whether one-term County Mayor Mike Williams will seek re-election.

He’s not picked up a qualifying petition (deadline is noon April 3), leaving County Commissioner Jeff Brantley as the sole candidate at press time.

We’ll look for gossip and lies at the annual Lincoln Day Dinner (Saturday, March 1, at Union County High School). But for now, the question remains: If Williams plans to run, why not pick up the petition? Every day he delays encourages those who might never jump in were they sure about Williams.

Reasons to run:

Efficiency. To finish work begun in areas such as the new Finance Department where Ann Dyer is streamlining operations to save tax dollars.

Professionalism. Relying on lessons learned in the state House and Senate, Williams runs a smooth meeting, giving time for discussion and being respectful to all who attend.

He has boosted transparency with a calendar that lists upcoming meetings, although this process could and should be improved with press releases to those who request them, particularly about changes in time or date. Email makes this cheap and doable.

Reasons not to run:

Money. It’s got to be frustrating to try to professionalize operations and build for the future within the budget constraints of Union County – where one-cent on the property tax generates just $30,000. Contrast that with Knox County where one cent generates more than $1 million. Williams can’t even keep a secretary, although County Commission pointedly asked him to request funding for the post in his budget (rather than try to slide it in later).

Personal. Maybe he’s just bored with the slow pace back home after serving so long in the Legislature, where it’s an adrenaline rush a minute during the session.

Williams is overcoming the death of his mother and his own medical issues which caused him to miss work last year.

Maybe he just wants a few friends to phone him and tell him it’s important that he run.

He told this writer in January that he was undecided about running. Now it’s March and April 3 is just around the corner. And lots of us are asking, “Where’s Mike?”

Candidates

Here’s an update on petitions issued and filed as of Feb. 26:

Mayor: Jeff Brantley – Issued 1/30/2014

County Clerk: Pam Ailor – Filed 1/30/2014

Circuit Court Clerk: Barbara Williams – Filed 1/13/2014

Register of Deeds: Mary Beth Kitts – Filed 2/5/2014; Ruth Cooke – Filed 2/11/2014

Sheriff: William F. Breeding, II – Filed 2/6/2014; Earl Loy Jr. – Issued 1/7/2014; Chad Faulkner – Filed 2/7/2014

Trustee: Gina Buckner – Issued 1/7/2014

County Commission: District 1 (3 seats): Gary L. England – Issued 1-14-2014; Roger Stanley Boles – Issued 1/14/2014; Janet Holloway – Issued 1/27/2014

District 2 (2 seats): Sheila Buckner – Issued 2/10/2014; Robert Bowers – Issued 2/10/2014

District 3 (2 seats): Billy Cox – Issued 1/8/2014; J.M. Bailey – Issued 2/5/2014

District 4 (2 seats): Dennis Nicley – Issued 1/13/2014; Doyle Welch – Issued 1/21/2014; Bill Collins – Issued 1/22/2014; Dawn Flatford – Issued 1/23/2014

District 5 (2 seats): Mike Hale – Issued 1/9/2014; Kenny Hill – Issued 1/9/2014; Chris Upton – Issued 1/10/2014

District 6 (3 seats): Mike Sexton – Issued 1/27/2014

District 7 (2 seats): Wayne G. Roach -Issued 1/17/2014; Joyce Meltabarger – Issued 1/27/2014

School Board: District 3: Calvin Chesney – Issued 1/10/2014; Gwendolyn S. Buckner – Issued 1/17/2014; Johnny R. Collins – Filed 2/11/2014

District 5: Danny Wayne Collins – Issued 1/10/14; Jennifer Mills – Issued 1/14/14

District 7: Marilyn Toppins – Issued 2/5/2014

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