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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Pinellas to consider performance pay, differential pay for teachers



The details aren't in yet, but the Pinellas school district and the Pinellas teachers union will soon be discussing plans for performance pay and differential pay for teachers - two things that Pinellas has famously resisted in the past.

"We have to come up with a way to reward people and to encourge them to work with our most needy students," Pinellas Superintendent Julie Janssen told the Gradebook today. She said she talked this morning to Marshall Ogletree, executive director of the Pinellas teachers union, and "they're ready to sit with us and design a plan."

Ogletree said initial discussions will focus on Gibbs High School, but that whatever is ultimately proposed there could be a template for other struggling schools. Ogletree said the state's new differentiated accountability system is helping to drive the discussion - it requires that districts implement performance pay and differential pay for low-performing schools - but he said the union had other motivations, too.

"It's kind of a cliche but we're trying to break the mold," he said. "We have to work on plans to close achievement gaps, no ifs, ands or buts about it."

Ogletree said he had "no idea" whether any performance pay proposal in Pinellas would be based on test scores, principal evaluations or other factors. But he promised there would be input from teachers: "My strategy is always to involve the people it's going to affect. We have to build buy in. We want the teachers to ... have some ownership and develop those plans themselves."

The Pinellas school district has not aggressively pushed incentive pay plans. And the Pinellas union has strongly resisted them. Longtime Pinellas union director Jade Moore, who died in December, called one of the state's proposed differential pay plans a "glitzy solution" that wouldn't help low-income kids. And he responded to a state mandate for performance bonuses by helping to craft a plan so difficult that virtually no teachers could earn one.

"I understand where Jade was coming from. In the past, it's been done catch-as-catch-can, from the top-down," Ogletree said. "You have to do the homework. You have to do the buy in. If you don't do that, it's almost designed for failure. Our plan for Pinellas is to do in a slow manner and evaluate the results."

It's not clear how many schools could be affected by a coming plan. The state's differentiated accountability system requires performance pay and differential pay for Correct II schools that earned D's or F's. In Pinellas, that would be 10 schools - 9 high schools and the Imagine charter school.

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 10:39am]


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