Trousdale County’s School Board voted last week to suspend most aspects of its Strategic Compensation Plan for the 2020-21 academic year.
The Strategic Compensation Plan, which was launched several years ago, allows teachers in the district to earn bonuses of up to $3,000 based on various performance metrics attained both individually and by their respective schools. Those metrics include reading proficiency and achievement, growth in TVAAS testing scores, absentee rate and attendance.
Director of Schools Clint Satterfield said that the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on schools made it impossible to know if some of those benchmarks could be reached. For example, the state suspended testing before schools closed in March, which means there are no test scores to mark student achievement or growth.
“The issue is that this spring we had a sudden closure… we were unable to have assessments and therefore we have no assessment data. We were unable to finish teacher evaluations and a lot of the metrics we use were scrubbed,” Satterfield said.
“We don’t have a crystal ball and we don’t know what the future looks like.”
Strategic Compensation Plan bonuses are paid out during the following school year, so teachers will receive their earned bonuses for the 2019-20 school year later this fall.
“There are present laws and guidance from where testing failed a few years ago that requires boards not to pay teachers less than they were paid in the previous year (including bonuses) when state testing is suspended,” Satterfield told The Vidette via email. “Therefore, if teachers meet other criteria such as attendance requirements in 2019-20, they can expect to make the same bonus amount in 2019-20 as they did in 2018-19.”
“All of our teachers are getting their bonuses like last year, this year,” board member Johnny Kerr said during Thursday’s meeting. “The last thing we want to do in an unusual year like this to affect family budgets of our teachers or our staff.”
Some aspects of the compensation plan will remain unchanged, such as stipends for hard-to-staff positions such as special education, high school math and chemistry; teacher leaders (department chairs in math, science, ELA at all three schools) and instructional coaches who serve as mentors for other teachers.
“We’re not doing away with the rest of it, just putting it on pause until we get a better picture,” Satterfield said.
Kerr and Chairman Regina Waller both hinted that the board could and likely would look at alternative bonus models at the end of the current school year.
“If this becomes a new normal, we can probably come up with another bonus system. Right now, there’s just not a lot we can measure,” Waller said.
“Next summer if there is no state test in the spring, we can look at that moving forward,” Kerr added.
Board members also voted to pay out the stipends for spring sports coaches (baseball, softball).
“They do a whole lot more work than just the season, and then their season gets canceled,” Kerr said. “We budgeted it, it’s there…”
The board also voted to create a maintenance worker position for five hours per day at $12 per hour.
Satterfield said that the system was down two night janitors, making the move virtually budget neutral.
How school is goingAll three principals presented reports on how the school year was going under the current hybrid plan. Students are currently attending school two days per week and learning from home the other three.
JSMS Principal J. Brim McCall said the learning from home portion was the biggest challenge so far.
“Our challenges have been… acclimating our students and teachers. But we’re learning,” he said. “We’ve adapted to fine-tune that plan.”
TCES Principal Demetrice Badru echoed the remarks about the learning from home and added that a lack of Chromebooks made it difficult for students to practice the digital portion of the curriculum. The district has ordered 700 Chromebooks but they have not arrived yet. The elementary school has around 260 computers on hand that are being shared as needed.
“The kids haven’t been able to practice (schoolwork); that has been a challenge… We are working with our kids on that,” Badru said.
Badru said around 300 students were coming to school on Wednesdays, which was put into place as an option for grades K-5.
All three principals said there had been little if any issues with the requirement to wear masks when entering and exiting the building and with health screening.
“We are taking temperatures; that is working really well,” Badru said.
TCHS Principal Teresa Dickerson noted in her report that social distancing seemed to be going smoothly, but noted that attendance in learn-from-home days and virtual school is a challenge.
Satterfield said that the district would begin holding attendance hearings next week for students not participating in learning at home.
“We have got to get a hold on learn-at-home days,” Satterfield said. “Every day is a learning day. The only thing that changes is that learning site… We’ve got to get students engaged.”
Reach Chris Gregory at 615-450-5756 or firstname.lastname@example.org.