Johnston Middle School Principal Lou Markouzis tries to attract high-quality teachers to his one-star school, but the best he can offer is a corner classroom with a window.
That’s about to change under a new pilot program that will offer an annual $10,000 bonus to educators who are accepted to teach at eight underperforming Clark County School District middle schools.
The school district, in partnership with the Clark County Education Association, will offer the bonus to educators at Brinley, Johnston, Mack, Monaco, Orr, Sedway, Von Tobel and West Prep beginning next school year.
The program seeks to recruit and retain teachers by offering the bonus for three years. In 2020-21 and 2021-22, educators may be eligible for an additional $5,000 based on student outcomes.
Teachers in the program also will get an additional 34 minutes of the workday for a planning period before the start of school.
Meanwhile, teachers currently at those schools will need to reapply for their jobs and could find themselves in jobs elsewhere if they’re not chosen.
“This is just a way for us, in an appreciated partnership with CCEA, to really find ways that we can solve some of the challenges that we’re facing,” said Superintendent Jesus Jara.
The district is working on a similar program for principals.
The district has long struggled to lure teachers to its neediest schools.
“The teaching business is hard enough,” said Markouzis, who took the helm of Johnston as it was beginning its turnaround efforts last spring. “But to be able to retain and recruit dynamic staff members, that is something that systemwide is a challenge.”
And improvement is critical, since these schools are facing consequences for low performance. All are eligible to enter the Achievement School District through a parent petition, which could provide them with neighborhood charter school competition.
Federal Title I funds that are reserved for low-income schools will pay for the bonus program, which is expected to cost $10 million each year.
But district officials say money won’t be taken from other Title I schools.
Although the district is stripping Title I money from a number of schools with lower populations of low-income students, the money for this initiative will come from a separate set-aside fund that has historically been used for the now defunct Turnaround Zone schools, said Mike Barton, the district’s chief college, career and equity officer.
Officials also hope the pilot will show the Nevada Legislature that education needs more funding.
Not for everyone
The proposal is already opening a divide between teachers who will get the extra cash and teachers who will not.
The issue has popped up before, when state law provided extra money to new teachers entering Title I schools but didn’t offer an incentive to teachers who had been in those schools for years.
“My concern is that you’re dangling a giant money-colored carrot in front of all the teachers,” teacher Vickie Kreidel told the School Board last week. “And I’m sure, with the economic struggles many of us deal with daily, some will choose to follow the carrot just for the money.”
Jessica Houchins, a Mack counselor, said the program is a good start. But she said it also causes division in a school by not offering the same incentives to counselors and strategists, who are on the same pay scale as teachers.
“I’m working alongside these teachers to help reach that goal and to help them reach their social, emotional, academic needs, and yet I’m not receiving that same incentive,” she said.
The program also is nerve-wracking for teachers who have to reapply for their jobs, Houchins said, and a similar program in the works for principals could lead to many leadership changes.
She also argues that support staff should be included in such an incentive program.
“They do all the grunt work of everything from aides to monitors to receptionists,” Houchins said. “I think everybody deserves a little bit of the incentive.”