Friday, December 15, 2017
Education

Pinellas schools receive $4 million for bonuses, school supplies

In this era of pay for performance, more than 40 Pinellas schools are receiving thousands of dollars for high achievement on standardized tests.

Palm Harbor University High is banking $244,329, while St. Petersburg High is raking in $224,606.

The smallest award? Tarpon Springs Fundamental Elementary's not-so-small $27,300.

So what is this iteration of merit-based money, often called "A+" funding, that has Pinellas schools suddenly $4 million richer?

It's the state's School Recognition Program, rewarding schools that fell into one of three categories: they received an "A" grade; improved one or more letter grades from the previous year; or sustained big gains for more than a year.

Each school can receive up to $100 per student, based on fall enrollment counts. Under state law, school staff and school advisory councils decide together how to spend the money, though they can't just head off to Disney World: the funds can be used for one-time bonuses, purchases of classroom materials, or the hiring of temporary staffers to aid students.

At Northeast High, 5 percent of the $182,812 reward was spent on school supplies, such as new calculators. The rest was split equally among all school staff, from principal Kevin Hendrick to the cafeteria workers and custodians.

"It shows that everyone's in this together," Hendrick said. "Whether you're serving breakfast or teaching AP calculus, or whatever part in between, everyone is valued and everyone matters in the achievement of students."

The bonuses, which came out to about $1,100 before taxes, "build a lot of morale for sure."

Woodlawn Elementary's staff also split its $44,469, although staffers voted to weight the bonuses based on employees' hourly rates.

Karen Russell, the school's principal, said it was a good reward after several years of state scrutiny.

"And I know the money helps staff get through the summer," she said.

Contact Lisa Gartner at [email protected] You can follow her on Twitter @lisagartner.

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