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Incentive proposed to lure good principals to troubled schools

By Staff | Aug 21, 2012

A $10,000 incentive for principals to go to a turnaround, priority or focus school was thoroughly discussed during a Lee County School Board meeting Tuesday afternoon on how the incentive would be dispersed.

There are five schools within the school district that are categorized as a focus school, which means they have a “D” school grade and have a history of declining performance.

Many of the board members felt that the bonus should be paid out in different increments instead of one lump sum when accepting the position.

Board member Jeannie Dozier said there is nothing that is tying future achievement to the bonus if the principal gets the $10,000 at the beginning of taking the job.

The question was brought forth by Dozier that if the $10,000 bonus has already been given out and the principal feels they are in over their head and leaves, does the district go out and recruit someone else and give them the $10,000.

She expressed that there needs to be something written that protects the budget, board and everyone in the district from something like that happening.

Dozier said she would like to see language stating that, for instance, only a third of the money will be given up front and the remaining bonus will be received when the achievement is met at that school level.

“I am simply saying apples to apples here,” she said. “This is the way I feel and I feel very strongly about it.”

Board member Jane Kuckel said she thinks there has to be performance goals that need to be spelled out from the beginning to get an additional compensation.

She went on to say that the district will give the principal half of the performance pay up front and then the other half will be determined by meeting the goals that are set.

“I think we have to be more specific of what that means,” Kuckel said.

Board member Thomas Scott said he does not see a problem with the district asking a highly qualified, successful person to take on an unsuccessful operation with a 10 percent bonus to make that move.

He said he does not see a problem with paying the individual up front with specific goals from the superintendent of how that school must perform in year one and year two.

“If that is the case, I am comfortable with it,” Scott said.

A committed amount of time was also discussed by the board, to ensure that principals are at the school for more than one year.

“When schools have a continued turnover of administrators, we start all over again,” Kuckel said. “If you are going into a turnaround school, you have to commit three years.”

Board Chairman Mary Fischer also believes a time commitment would be very important.

“I know as far as the goals go, that will depend on the school, level and size of the school and the issues at the school,” she said. “I don’t think we will jump the gun and have it written in stone ahead of time. A high school verses an elementary school, you will not have the same issues and goals necessarily.”

Scott said he would like to see a stipulation that includes the amount of time someone is willing to commit.

Superintendent Dr. Joseph Burke addressed all the issues brought forth.

He said they want the principal to meet specific standards every subsequent year, as well as meeting a certain performance level.

Unfortunately, Burke said the district will not know that the person is meeting a specific goal until the end of the year.

Burke said they are proposing an interim step for the school administrator’s salary schedule. He said the bonus is the district trying to attract successful leaders.

The language, Burke said, can be tweaked to provide a way to have a superintendent offer additional compensation to attract a successful candidate, which includes certain goals being met.

Kuckel also wants to see fairness become a part of the process where administrators can turn in an application for the position, which Burke did not have any objection to.

Scott said he was not distressed with what he read concerning the bonus.

“The final judge whether or not this occurs rests with the board,” he said. “That is the only tweak I would make with this. That is my only distress.”

Burke said he would like to bring the administrative salary schedule item before the board at the action meeting on Sept. 11 if they can get the proposed changes to the board.

“It is not the final step in getting us the full way where we want to go,” he said.