Wants to reward high-performing teachers fairly
One year into its inaugural teacher compensation model, the Cedar Grove-Belgium School District is looking to revise the system to more fairly reward and better evaluate its teaching staff.
The board discussed the model last week and plans to bring more people to the table next week.
“I want this to do what it’s intended to do,” Supt. Jeanne Courneene said.
Director of Pupil Services Tamra O’Keefe said the intention is to reward teachers who perform well, but the model does not do that.
“It seems picky,” O’Keefe said.
The model rates teachers on a 24-point scoring system on six performance levels of effectiveness.
Seventy-three percent of teachers had a score of 16 or higher, putting them in the third-highest level called professional.
“Teachers are performing extraordinarily well,” Courneene said.
But the system isn’t making them feel that way.
“The points are hurtful,” Courneene said. “The points aren’t doing what they’re intended to do.”
For teachers who aren’t reaching expectations, Courneene said the district won’t jump to the extreme.
“We’re not here to threaten non-renewal,” she said.
But Courneene said that if the district sees a pattern of behavior, it won’t wait until the end of the year to act.
For new classroom teachers scoring 9 to 11 points, Courneene said, principals requested that raises be available. Just because teachers are developing and need fine tuning doesn’t mean they’re deficient.
Some teachers have shared their scores with each other, which board member Lori Gruell said is “unprofessional.”
One element is out of the district’s control. Base wages, according to the state law called Act 10, may only increase as much as the Consumer Price Index. Last year, that equated to $47.
Courneene said teachers and administrators are not interested in bonuses since that creates friction among teachers, but board member Dan Bruhn said he could see more money given to top earners only receiving CPI raises because they’re at the top of the pay scale.
“I don’t think in pre-Act 10 there were $47 raises given to teachers,” Bruhn said.
Courneene said that number does stick out among teachers.
“They say ‘Gosh, I’m working really hard but I’m only making $47 (more),’” she said.
Board member Kurt Kraus said he wants to reward high-performing teachers who don’t have master’s degrees. The degree doesn’t equate to being a good teacher, Kraus said.
“I want to compensate the great-producing teachers, not just those who have a piece of paper,” he said.
Bruhn wondered if good teachers even need the point system, saying they may feel like they’re getting beat up.
O’Keefe said the system has not increased morale, but board member Laura Schieffer, director of pupil services for the Hartford Jt. 1 School District, said Cedar Grove-Belgium is not alone.
“I don’t know one district in the state where morale is great. I think there are growing pains going on,” she said.
Board member Nancy Niebauer said she doesn’t think the model’s performance indicators are oppressive.
Jane Weidner, Cedar Grove-Belgium Education Association president, said the old model was more predictable. It was administrators’ jobs to work with teachers who need help, and there wasn’t an element of competition.
“In education, I think you want people to be more collaborative,” she said.
Weidner said she appreciates that the state Department of Public Instruction’s Educator Effectiveness model — required for every district but separate from districts’ own evaluation models — isn’t tied to compensation. That, she said, allows teachers to take risks with students and push themselves without worrying about money.
O’Keefe said money is not the big motivator for educators.
“Most people don’t go into education because they’re going to make a ton of money,” she said.
Verbal praise, she said, is important. Others agreed.
“You want people to feel appreciated and feel wanted,” Schieffer said.
“And they don’t,” said Courneene.
Schieffer said she likes the model as it applies to teachers who need to be put on improvement plans and she is open to a less-complicated structure. She said she is interested in hearing from teachers on what would improve morale.
A meeting of administrators and teachers is scheduled for Sept. 8.
“I’d rather hit pause and get it right,” Courneene said.