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CMSD could pay teachers incentive bonuses by 2019


Jason Spears

Jason Spears


Craig Shannon

Craig Shannon


Joyce Helmick

Joyce Helmick



Mary Pollitz



Teachers at Columbus Municipal School District could soon start seeing incentive bonuses based on the state accountability rating of the campus where they work. 


CMSD's board of trustees will vote on June 11 on a Teacher Incentive Pay Plan, meant to, in part, reward teachers for their students' performance on state testing. If the policy passes as laid out, certified teachers who work at CMSD campuses who earn an A rating from the state would receive a $2,000 incentive bonus, while teachers at schools who show any improvement would see smaller bonuses. 


Under the plan, the district also would pay bonuses to assistant teachers and support staff at qualifying campuses. 


CMSD would fund the program itself, which would not replace any state incentives or local supplements provided to district faculty. The goal is to reward all staff for student achievement and success, board president Jason Spears said. 


"Number one, it's going to really get people focused back in the classrooms," Spears said. "... Second thing, it's going to help Columbus show that we are really focused on the educational side of things. We want teachers to come in. We want to recruit teachers. We want to make sure this particular program is instituted to show that if you help (raise) performance, then you're going to be compensated for it." 


Mississippi rates public school districts, as well as individual campuses, on a letter-grade scale -- ranging from to A to F -- based on a number of factors, mainly student performance on end-of-year benchmark exams. CMSD's district is currently rated a D. Three district campuses -- Columbus Middle School, Franklin Academy and Joe Cook Elementary -- are rated as Fs. Columbus High School is the district's highest-rated campus at a B. 




How the policy works 


The TIPP plan would take place over four school years, with the board having the option to extend it from there. 


If approved, teachers would see their first bonuses in December 2019, based on the accountability ratings each campus earns during the 2018-19 school year. The last bonuses, if trustees don't extend the program, would come in December 2022. 


In 2019, if a school increases from a F to a D, certified staff would receive $500, teacher assistants would receive $250 and support staff would receive $50. Incentive amounts increase gradually for each letter grade, up to $2,000 for certified faculty at A-rated campuses.  


Starting in the program's second year, the same scale for incentives would be awarded. The district also would award staff for a school maintaining a grade of C or higher. If a school maintains a C, certified staff would receive $1,000, assistant teachers would receive $500 and support staff would get $100. Maintaining a B would earn certified staff $1,500, teacher assistants $750 and support staff $250 and maintaining an A would bring those totals to $2,000, $1,000 and $500, respectively.  


In the program's fourth year, however, no bonuses would be offered at campuses maintaining a C or lower. 


Central office personnel would receive incentive pay based on district-wide accountability scores. McKellar Technology Center, Juvenile Detention Center and Alternative School staff member bonuses would be based on Columbus High School's rating. 


"We want to try to make sure that all staff members are rewarded or given an incentive to make sure that kids achieve at a very high level," Interim Superintendent Craig Shannon said. "(Support staff) ranges from custodians, cafeteria workers (and) security officers. All support staff will play a part in making sure our students achieve at a high level."  




District funding, program impact 


Neither Spears nor Shannon could estimate how much the incentive program would cost the district each year. 


Spears said the district plans to use the 2017-18 accountability results -- which will be released in October -- as a guide for how much to budget for TIPP.  


In the meantime, Shannon said CMSD is looking for ways to cut unnecessary and redundant expenses. 


"We've operated very efficiently over the last few years to build a (strong) fund balance," Shannon said. "We will have a year of test scores to look at to plan for it. It will be put on that following year's budget." 


CMSD also has $6 million in reserve funds, Spears said. 


Joyce Helmick, president of the Mississippi Association of Educators, said the educators in Mississippi need to be compensated for what they do in the classroom, but the state is short on data for exactly how well incentive programs, like the one CMSD is proposing, work. 


So many other factors than pay, she said, go into teacher/student performance. However, she certainly doesn't discourage such incentive programs. 


"Mississippi Association of Educators has always supported teacher pay raises," Helmick said. "We believe that all teachers should get paid for the work they do. 


"Some schools are doing better, but we don't necessarily think it's because of a pay incentive," she later added. "We think, mostly, it's because the teachers and students are motivated to do better."




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