By Heather Mullinix
Cumberland County teachers overwhelmingly support for teachers to receive compensation for extra responsibilities, a survey found.
The survey was part of the school system's ongoing process to develop a strategic compensation plan for teachers that does not use educational degrees or years of service to determine additional compensation.
The survey was completed by 326 teachers. Of those, 84 percent were in favor of compensating those who take on additional roles or responsibilities in the school system, such as mentors, lead teachers, Professional Learning Communities teachers, professional development presenters and other roles. It does not include bus duty or working at ball games.
Lead teachers were considered the number one extra responsibility for teachers, at 36 percent.
Teachers responding also overwhelmingly favored teachers continuing to be paid based upon their years of experience, with 97 percent in favor, and based on advanced degrees earned, with 97 percent support.
Teachers were more evenly split on the question of compensating teachers for effectiveness, with 56 percent saying teachers with the same experience and degrees should be paid the same, regardless of effectiveness scores and 49 percent saying Level 5 teachers should be compensated at a higher rate than Level 1 teachers.
Fifty-six percent said there should be no signing or retention bonus for hard to staff areas, such as higher level math or science classes, speech therapy or other areas of specialization.
A strategic planning committee, which included members of the community, teachers, support staff, civic leaders, government leaders and students, discussed how to recruit and retain highly qualified teachers and appropriate compensation plans. The most important aspects identified by the group for teacher compensation were experience, academic involvement outside of school hours in extra roles, professionalism/degrees, data, hard-to-staff areas and attendance.
In regards to staffing hard-to-staff positions and offering signing or retention bonuses, Susan Huneycutt, assistant director of human resources and administration, told the Cumberland County Board of Education the committee had discussed how to attract those individuals to Cumberland County.
"Our students deserve a quality physics teacher or quality calculus teacher, and how we get that person, we have to find ways to attract them," said Huneycutt. "We talked about finding that experienced person, that proven person...We have to do what we can to get quality teachers for those kids."
However, many might also be attracted to the county by the quality of life offered and the work environment.
Charles Tollett, 1st District representative, said, "As easily as we can understand the necessity of doing this, it's not popular among the folks involved."
A task force will work with teachers and school administrators to develop a plan, which is needed to meet provisions of a 2007 law calling for differentiated compensation plans for teachers. That law has not been enforced but the Tennessee Department of Education has told school systems they must have a plan in place for the 2014-'15 school year.
The task force will work on preparing a plan to be presented to the board for consideration in February. The plan would then have to be reviewed and approved by the state.
In other action, the board approved offering LifeForce as an optional membership program to employees. There is no cost to the system. Employees can choose to purchase a membership into the program that covers all out-of-pocket costs of using an air ambulance. David Bowman, 7th District representative, moved to approve and the motion was unanimously approved.
The board is also making plans for a board work session Feb. 15. The board will be seeking permission from the state to develop a visioning curriculum that will count toward board education goals and boardsmanship programs through the Tennessee School Boards Association. The board will also work on a self evaluation and select an evaluation instrument for the director of schools.
The meeting will last seven hours, which is a requirement for the education credits. The meeting will be held at the Central Services office on 4th St.