Despite bonuses included in a new agreement with the county school district, the Gadsden County Classroom Teachers Association wants to see improvements in the way the district evaluates teachers and awards performance bonuses.
Ronte Harris, president of the association, said it took the two sides almost a year to reach the agreement, which School Board Chairman Steve Scott said includes pay raises for teachers that range from 4.1 to 5 percent based on the teacher’s experience. In addition, Harris said, all teachers got a one-time $750 bonus, which makes up somewhat for the fact that the county does not yet have any money in its performance pay budget.
Florida school districts were supposed to have been instituting performance pay models since 2011, when Governor Rick Scott signed Senate Bill 736 into law. Gadsden County has lagged behind. “I’m glad we finally got performance pay written into our contract,” Harris said, “even though the pot of money for both 2017-18 and 2018-19 is zero dollars.” Harris is also concerned with the way Gadsden County principals are administering teaching evaluations, which are the basis of the performance pay system.
Teachers get extra bonuses if they are rated a highly-effective or effective teacher. “Even though the county has no money in its budget yet for performance incentives, the state itself has funded a program both this year and next to allow teachers rated highly-effective in the previous year to get a $1,200 bonus and teachers rated effective to get a $800 bonus,” Harris said. “If teachers are not being evaluated correctly, it stops them from earning the extra money they deserve.”
Harris said the way many Gadsden County principals are approaching evaluations is arbitrary and punitive. “Teacher evaluations are supposed to be an ongoing process to improve teacher performance to help students learn better,” Harris said. “They are not supposed to be a one-time arbitrary judgment as to whether an administrator likes a teacher or not.”
Gadsden County School Superintendent Roger Milton said he had not heard any complaints about the teacher evaluation system in the county this school year until last Friday, when it was brought to his attention that one principal was accused of improperly evaluating several teachers. Nonetheless, he supports the current system and thinks most schools are following the system.
“It is the intent of the school district to follow the evaluation process we have in place and we have been following it all year as far as I know,” Milton said. “This recent complaint is the first we have heard of a problem with our system. Our Human Resources Department will be looking into these charges and responding as quickly as possible.”
Harris said his association hopes supporters who want to see a change will attend the next School Board meeting and lend their support to the teachers association. The next Gadsden County School Board meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 22 at School Board headquarters (35 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.) in Quincy.