Avoyelles School Board considering teacher incentive plans

 

By RAYMOND L. DAYE
Faced with 70 percent of district schools rated “D” with numerous teaching vacancies, Superintendent Blaine Dauzat is asking the Avoyelles School Board to provide financial incentives for new teachers to go to the lower-achieving schools and for current district teachers to transfer to a lower-achieving school.
 
The board’s Executive Committee endorsed the superintendent’s “teacher incentive plan” at its meeting this past Tuesday. It will now go to the full board May 5 for adoption.
 
The district currently pays certified teachers with 0-3 years of teaching experience a “one-time supplement” of $3,000 to agree to teach in Avoyelles schools for three years. The revised incentive plan would keep that incentive for teachers hired at Lafargue Elementary, Plaucheville Elemen-tary and LaSAS. It would increase the incentive to $5,000 and reduce the commitment to two years to teach at Avoyelles, Bunkie and Marksville high schools and Bunkie, Cottonport, Marksville and Riverside elementary schools.
 
Dauzat is also recommending a $4,000 “one-time supplement” to any teacher who transfers to a lower-ranked school from a higher-ranked school. Dauzat ranked the schools based on poverty rate, school performance score and difficulty in staffing. There would be no incentive payment for any teacher transferring to Lafargue, Plaucheville or LaSAS. There would be no incentive to a teacher transferring between Avoyelles and Marksville high schools. Avoyelles and Marksville high schools tied. 
 
The above schools are listed in order of Dauzat’s ranking as presented to the committee. The remaining five schools’ rankings, from high to low, are: Bunkie High and Riverside, Cottonport, Marksville and Bunkie elementaries.
 
Hurts ‘good schools’
Board President Mike Lacombe was not a fan of either incentive, saying it “would hurt our good schools.” He voted in favor of giving new teachers more money to go to one of the seven “D” schools. He voted against paying teachers a “transfer supplement” to move from a “good” school to a “lower-achieving, higher-poverty” school.
 
Board member Lizzie Ned voted in favor of both proposals, but also noted that the superintendent should be able to address any inequity in teacher quality among the schools without enticing teachers to transfer. 
 
“When I was a teacher in St. Landry, they moved all of us around,” she said. “I didn’t want to move, but I did. They told us, ‘We promised you a job, not a particular place to work.’” 
 
Lacombe said the transfer policy states that both principals and the superintendent must approve a transfer from one school to another district school. Unless that policy is scrapped, he said, the principal faced with losing a valuable teacher can veto the transfer.
 
Dauzat said the superintendent can override a principal’s objection.
 
Board member Chris Lacour asked that the district consider offering an incentive for experienced teachers in other districts to transfer to Avoyelles. His rationale was that it would be just as important to entice proven, experienced teachers to the parish schools as it is new teachers just out of college with little or no teaching experience.
 
Protections
The incentive plan for transferring teachers includes some provisions designed “to ensure a school doesn’t get raided,” Dauzat said.
 
A top-three school cannot lose more than four teachers to the transfer plan, he said. The other schools cannot lose more than two. To be eligible for the incentive payment, a teacher must be certified with a “highly qualified” designation in the area they will teach and have been rated “effective” in last year’s performance evaluation. This will prevent a mediocre or substandard teacher from getting paid to transfer without really benefitting the receiving school.
 
Dauzat said schools with a high poverty rate and low performance scores have more trouble filling vacancies.
 
At this time, the anticipated vacancies -- if the new school year were to start tomorrow -- show Avoyelles High with 14 vacancies, Bunkie High with eight, Bunkie Elementary with seven, Marksville High with six and Marksville Elementary with four. Cottonport, Plaucheville, Riverside and LaSAS would all have three vacancies. Lafargue would have no vacancies.
 
The “new teacher” incentive would be paid out of the district’s General Fund. The proposed “transfer incentive” would be paid out of the Federal Programs’ Title 2 funds.
 
Board member Van Kojis said the board has to try something to address the teacher shortage and try to improve the lower-achieving schools.
He said the board can always change the policy if it doesn’t have the desired results or causes any problems.
 
“We’ve got to do something to straighten this out,” Kojis added.
 
‘No felons’ provision
In another matter, the committee approved changes to the district policy manual to include changes related to the new lease policy for 16th Section lands. The only discussion concerned added wording to the provision excluding felons and habitual offenders from not only leasing board property, but even being present on the property.
 
Parish Maintenance Supervisor Steve Marcotte said the board’s attorney recommended revising the wording to “or live on  School Board property” instead of “or be present on School Board property.”
 
Dauzat said “live” includes “being present,” but “being present” does not include “live.”
 
Board member Darrell Wiley said the board should keep the more restrictive language which would keep anyone convicted of a felony from even visiting a lease holder on a Section 16 campsite.

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