Cumberland County Schools is closer to finalizing a proposal for a strategic compensation plan, required by the Tennessee Department of Education, with a final plan expected to be presented at the March 27 meeting of the Cumberland County Board of Education.

Rebecca Wood, assistant director of curriculum, instruction and accountability, explained a committee, which included representatives of the Cumberland County Education Association, had worked on the county's teacher payscale and recommended keeping step raises for additional degrees earned and years of service.

But that's just the first step. State law now requires every school system to develop a differentiated payscale that does not consider those extra degrees or longevity.

The details of the matrix are still being worked out, Wood said, but teachers would earn points based on taking on additional roles, staffing hard-to-fill positions, attendance and evaluation scores.

"It was decided a district committee needed to meet yearly to determine what are hard-to-staff areas in the system and to review the approved extra roles. Every year is a little different and sometimes a role may not be on the list that would need to be considered," Wood said.

Examples of extra roles including serving as a leader of a Professional Learning Community or as a LEAD teacher; being an Response To Intervention (RTI) coordinator, so long as the RTI coordinator was not otherwise compensated; serving on the textbook committee; chairing a Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accreditation committee or subcommittee; and being a professional development presenter. Different roles would have points that would go into a matrix and add to a teacher's point total.

Teachers would receive 4 points if they earned a 3 on their TEAM evaluation; 6 points if they earned a 4; and 8 points if they earned a score of 5, the highest score. There would be no points awarded teachers scoring a 1 or 2.

Hard-to-staff teacher would get an additional 5 points.

Teachers missing no days during the school year would earn 10 points. Eight points would be awarded for missing 1/2 to 3 days. Points would be granted for missing no more than 10 days, which is the amount of days a teacher earned in leave time each year.

Those points would be added up and teachers would receive a one-time bonus, recommended to be paid the following year at before Christmas, on the following schedule:

12 to 17 points — $500

18 to 22 points — $1,000

More than 23 points — $1,500

Dan Schlafer, 9th District representative, questioned using attendance on the matrix, pointing out a teacher who has a baby or health problem would not be eligible for the bonus.

"This year, I missed 12 days for a knee replacement," Schlafer said. "That's more days than I've ever missed. A teacher may need to miss a day for any number of things that are unavoidable and that would knock a teacher out of a potential pay bump."

Julia Timson, CCEA representative, said, "If it's the year you decide to have a baby, you know you're not going to get this bonus. But you're not always going to be having a baby. You're not always going to be having knee surgery. Some years, that happens. Other years, we have teachers who never miss and they should be rewarded."

Timson pointed to the school budget, which allocates more than $300,000 for substitute teachers.

"I had to take a day to take my dad to the doctor, but I'm not ever going to miss more than 10 days because I choose my job and I think it's important that I'm in my building," Timson said. "I'm tired of teachers disrespecting my profession by wasting those days. Let's get ahold of those being disrespectful."

Wood and Timson said the committee was still working out details and it may be possible to excuse absences related to medical conditions.

Schlafer said, "You don't get rewarded for doing what you're supposed to do...What are we going to do to combat that and make our climate more conducive to holding people more accountable?"

Wood said the matrix was not a "reward" plan, but a differentiated pay plan.

"We have to find things that we value and that will help children and reward those activities," Wood said. "One of the things we talked about is that we need teachers there on a consistent basis."

Rolf Weeks, Parent-Teacher Association representative to the board, said, "We should be valuing attendance...We reward students when they have perfect attendance. We should reward teachers and administrators for having perfect attendance. I'm really happy that in this rubric, attendance is a part of this. We need to consider that as a major value."

Richard Janeway, 2nd District representative, questioned the resources available to monitor each teacher's place on the matrix and how the board would know how much to budget for the points system.

"I can see it being a financial nightmare," Janeway said.

Wood said the draft was trying to attach the points to a bonus, but a suggestion from a teacher had been to allocate a certain amount of money for the bonuses to be paid from. Then, the funds would be distributed based on how many people earned the different levels of points and split the pot accordingly. The bonuses might be more or less than the example of $500, $1,000 and $1,500, depending on how many teachers earned the bonuses.

Wood said the strategic compensation committee was currently taking feedback from teachers and would meet again in March to review the plan and prepare it to be presented to the board at the March 27 meeting.