Plan reworks teacher rewards

New state laws will force the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. to change the way it awards the district’s best teachers.

But at the same time, local schools also may have been given a way to reward all certified educators with permanent raises.

Under BCSC policy, teachers have not been allowed to receive bonuses. Instead, all state monies allocated through the former teacher performance grant program were shared equally among eligible educators.

Last winter, teachers deemed highly effective received $1 more than peers rated as effective, BCSC superintendent Jim Roberts said.

But the formula used to determine the grants came under scrutiny late last year by a number of educators, including Jeff Butts, president of the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents.

By focusing mostly on pass rates from ISTEP, which was not intended to evaluate educators, the old formula failed to reward high-performing teachers, Butts said.

His organization also argued that teachers at the wealthiest schools often receive substantially more money than those who work in poorer, urban districts.

In response, the Indiana General Assembly made changes this year that include changing the name from teacher performance to teacher appreciation grants.

Due to formula changes approved by state lawmakers, the funds are going to be distributed much more equitably, BCSC Superintendent Jim Roberts told his school board last week.

Instead of a $1 difference, state law now requires that cash stipends for teachers rated highly effective be 25 to 50 percent higher than peers rated effective, Roberts said.

The stipend must be distributed to teachers within 20 business days of when the state distributes funds to the corporation, Roberts said.

A determination on the precise percentage of difference is expected to be made by the school board during its Aug. 28 meeting. The corporation is required to submit the approved policy to the Indiana Department of Education no later than Sept. 15.

Approved changes regarding the $30-per-student stipends would go into effect late this year or in early 2018, the superintendent said.

But another change in state law provides an option that would allow BCSC to take half of the teacher appreciation grant dollars and apply the money to the permanent base salary for all certified teachers during contract negotiations, Roberts said.

“So if you don’t have enough money to give a particular raise, you can use this money to supplement it to get it to that higher level,” said Vaughn Silva, former assistant superintendent for financial services who still serves the schools on a consulting basis.

Last January, it was announced that eligible BCSC teachers would receive a $651 stipend.

Although the school board could vote to submit that plan to the state by Sept. 15, that will not place the board under an obligation to follow through with it, Roberts said.

By submitting the plan to the state, it simply provides the administration with additional flexibility in future contract discussions, he said.

The administration is expected to discuss the option with representatives of the Columbus Educators Association, Roberts said.

These policies recommended by administrators have been set forth by NEOLA, an Ohio-based organization that helps 1,300 schools set direction through policy and address the impact of changing laws and regulations.

Grant qualifications

Teacher appreciation grant funds received by the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation are distributed to licensed teachers who meet the following criteria:

  • Employed in the classroom, including providing instruction in a virtual classroom setting.
  • Rated as effective or highly effective on their most recent performance evaluation.
  • Employed by BCSC as of Dec. 1 of the year in which the grant funds are received by the corporation.
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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.