SSISD administrators recommend teacher incentives

By FAITH HUFFMAN, News-Telegram News Editor

March 16, 2008 - School administrators are recommending salary incentives for teachers hired to fill positions in subjects of "critical shortage" and for employees who have been employed by Sulphur Springs Independent School District for more than 20 years.

The teacher salary information was recommended by Assistant Superintendent Randy Reed during this month's regular trustees meeting.

He reported that 60 percent of schools surveyed by Texas Association of School Boards indicate they pay "shortage stipends to teachers," and that the figure increases to 83 percent in districts with student populations above 3,000. Thirteen percent of districts surveyed paid incentive bonuses this year to new teachers in critical shortage areas, primarily math and science.

Reed said that SSISD in the last two and three years has had to hire between 30 and 50 teachers to fill vacancies. Offering a one time bonus of $2,000 to secondary math, science, foreign language, special eduction and bilingual education teachers and a $1,000 bonus for English as a second language teachers would cost the district an extra $24,000 to $30,000 next year. (Reed said the rate for ESL teachers wasn't as high because "ESL teachers are more available than bilingual who have to pass the oral certification" requiring they be fluent in the second language.)

Coupled with the 401A plan, which kicks in for teachers who remain with the district five years, the incentive could prove a good recruiting tool, and in the long run save the district money through retention of quality teachers. administrators said..

Administrators are also recommending that in the coming months as board members begin shaping the budget for the 2008-2009 school year, that they consider adding a step raise for teachers with 21 plus years experience, an incentive to keep the quality educators who did not benefit from the last pay increases. It's being recommended that the district consider giving teachers with bachelor's degrees who are at step 21 on the pay scale a $400 raise, and that those with a bachelor's degree more than 21 years teaching be given an increase in standard pay from $48,2000 to $49,200. That would allow those teachers to also benefit from the same pay increase teachers with fewer years experience received in recent years.

The matter will likely be brought to the board at a later time as an action item to consider approving or be may be presented for consideration during budget workshops this summer.

Also during the meeting, head senior class sponsor Renee Maeker reported that this year's graduates will have "Yabba Dabba" good time if they attend Project Graduation Celebration 2008. The drug-free, alcohol-free all-night lock-in this year will be based on a Flintstones inspired theme.

Maeker said that response at the first parent meeting held Feb. 11 was overwhelming, with more than 50 parents attending and pledging to help with the event. Since then a number of other parents of seniors have also called to offer their assistance as well.

The graduation party for SSHS seniors will kick off May 31, with the students arriving at the high school around 11 p.m. and the event kicking into high gear by midnight with such favorites as the mechanical bull and a blow-up relay. It will also include a climbing wall.

Donations from businesses and individuals for the event and gifts for the graduates have begun to come in. The previous class' sponsors have invited the 2008 class to continue the Cat Walk fundraiser started last year. They anticipate selling bricks in honor or memory of current or past SSHS graduates after spring break. That project is expected to wrap up by by mid-April. Someone who has a business has agreed to assist in the laying of the bricks, which can also count as a community service project for the students helping with it, Maeker noted.

This year about 250 seniors are expected to graduate from SSHS and all are invited to the free party being hosted in their honor afterward at the school.

SSISD Superintendent Patsy Bolton noted that the school board the last few years has budgeted for a computer and printer, which will be awarded via a drawing to one lucky graduate at the celebration. The board voted unanimously to again donate a printer and computer for the project.

As planning progresses more information about graduation celebration, fundraisers and needs will be presented to the public, Maeker noted.

The board also gave the nod to begin preparation of a Head Start refunding application. The board or "executive" approval is the first step in the process of applying to have some expenses associated with the program refunded to the district, school officials noted.

The board also approved the mathematics textbooks selected by the district textbook committee, and legal updates and local policy changes suggested by Texas Association of School Board per recent legislative changes.

"This is from TAB Localized Policy Manuel Update 82. The legal policies are a done deal. We really have no say in those. They're mainly changes in text, revision of the law, most of the times changes in language," Reed noted.

One item in the update has to do with superintendent non-renewal, two items were revised in that policy. Another change requires employees to "discern in writing any conflict of interest" they may have.

A third deals with educator misconduct, requiring school administrator to report not only an employee involved in misconduct with a student but also the student's name to the state. Reed noted, however, that the juvenile's identity would continue to be protected from the public, particularly the media, as is school policy.

The state also now requires a high school plan for all student, not just special education students or those who have yet to pass the TAKS test. The district already develops such a plan for students before they start their freshman year.

One policy change involves random steroid testing of students in special activities, while another requires that the district make available on request copies of student handbooks posted online. The district also can prevent student distribution of any literature that "in our minds promotes illegal drug use," according to Reed. The district will also have to have certified teachers for the alternative program DAEP, positions often hard to fill.

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