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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Who's eligible for Florida's Best and Brightest teacher bonus?



Florida school districts are acting with caution in considering which educators can get a state Best and Brightest bonus, despite a recent ruling that teachers without classrooms are eligible.

Some school districts decided after the ruling that all "instructional personnel" could qualify for the award. Best and Brightest, which has been controversial among educators, is reserved for teachers who have earned a "highly effective" evaluation and also scored in the top 20 percent on the SAT or ACT when they took it.

Sumter County schools officials sent a query to the Florida Department of Education, though, wondering if anyone other than classroom teachers were able to get the bonus of up to $10,000. They noted that the statutory definition of classroom teacher does not include categories such as guidance counselor or media specialist.

Bonita H. Hampton, director of the department's Educator Recruitment & Recognition program, confirmed Best and Brightest was "only for classroom teachers." That prompted Sumter superintendent Richard Shirley, a leader in the state superintendents association, to reach out to his colleagues with some advice.

"While I certainly think good (guidance counselors) and media specialists are very deserving of more money when possible, I would encourage you to be very careful with your B&B plan, as you can probably include anyone you want -- but it sounds like it may be paid for out of your local General Fund dollars, and not Best and Brightest," Shirley wrote.

Bay County expanded eligibility to everyone on its instructional salary schedule. Pasco County, by contrast, did not.

Anticipating confusion over definitions, Pasco schools "have held to the statutory definition for classroom teacher for this year to avoid any such issue," assistant superintendent Kevin Shibley wrote in an email to his superintendent.

Teachers can apply for the award through Nov. 1. Districts will determine who qualifies by Dec. 1, with the money being distributed to the teachers by April 1, 2017.

[Last modified: Monday, August 22, 2016 3:43pm]


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