2/14/19 ABSS offers signing bonuses

ABSS offers signing bonuses
$4,000 incentives aimed at hard-to-fill teaching positions
By Jessica Williams, The Times-News 2/14/19    
Reprinted with permission.

Teaching at Broadview, Turrentine or Graham middle school could mean receiving a $4,000 bonus.

At the meeting Tuesday, Feb. 12, of the Alamance-Burlington Board of Education, Interim Title I Director Amy Richardson presented a pilot program that would give incentives to teachers who apply to teach — and stay — at one of the three middle schools.

How it works

A new teacher, including a teacher coming from another ABSS school, would receive a $4,000 stipend in the first year: half in December and half in May.

Current teachers would receive a baseline $500 for returning each year, with an option to receive an additional $250 if their students met expected growth, or an additional $500 if they exceeded growth. These bonuses also would be paid in two installments.

The money would be taken from Title I funding — which is based on the number of students coming from low-income homes — the maximum being $300,000.

Richardson told the board they would need the full $300,000 only if every teaching position at all three schools needed to be filled, which is highly unlikely.

ABSS would then measure the success of the pilot program by having these teachers fill out anonymous surveys before receiving their stipends.

Why it’s needed

Broadview, Turrentine and Graham are “hard to staff” schools.

Because of this, they’ve had to hire a large number of provisional teachers — teachers with temporary licenses — and that’s contributed to high teacher turnover rates.

All three schools have a turnover rate higher than 20 percent. Broadview’s is higher than 40 percent. That means from one year to the next, Broadview lost more than 40 percent of its staff.

And it’s a vicious cycle.

“One of the things we know is that as teacher turnover increases — and this goes under the ‘hard to staff’ definition — as teacher turnover increases, things that decline include school climate, program sustainability and student achievement,” Richardson said.

So the incentive program’s three goals are to retain good teachers so that turnover rates at all three schools are less than 15 percent, improve teacher working conditions, and — in turn — improve students’ academic outcomes.

The board responds

Board member Patsy Simpson voiced concern about giving a teacher on a one-year “Permit to Teach” license a $4,000 bonus if the teacher is likely to leave the next year.

Right now, Broadview has 14 such teachers, Graham has three, and Turrentine has none.

But Superintendent Bruce Benson explained that the aim of the program is to draw fully licensed teachers to these schools and positions.

“One of the things that we’re trying to do here is to deepen the applicant pool, and if we deepen the applicant pool there should be more choices in terms of selection to go into those positions,” Benson said. “One of our goals here, and we have it listed up here, is [to look] at the teacher qualifications so that we would see a more diverse representation of folks across schools, more specifically an increase of fully licensed teachers in our schools where we have these hard to staff positions.”

The pilot program is still in development, Benson added, and board members will have a chance to tweak it at subsequent meetings (e.g., add a clause saying the new teacher stipend can be offered only to lateral entry, add-on area or fully licensed teachers, if they so desired).

There was also some concern about fostering an atmosphere of competition among ABSS schools, but board member Wayne Beam — who spent a number of years as an administrator — said there’s already competition.

“Well, I’m going to be absolutely honest,” Beam said. “It does cause conflict among principals, but it happens all the time. Anybody that’s been a principal who disagrees with me, speak up.”

Overall, board members were pleased with the proposal and Benson’s quick turnaround. It was only two weeks ago — at the Jan. 28 meeting — that board members first discussed the issue.

“I am just elated with the speed in which Dr. Benson and his staff has come up with this,” Simpson said. “It’s just another example of something that I know I’ve had discussions about and I’m sure many other board members [have] in terms of financial incentives to address the issue that we discussed at the last meeting, so I definitely commend you and your staff for doing this and I hope this is just the beginning with these three schools … because there are other issues other than just with these three particular schools, but this is a fantastic start.”