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School district pays $759K in bonuses to its teachers

EAGLE — The school district spent more than $759,000 in performance bonuses this month as part of its performance pay program.

The bonuses ranged from 0 to 4 percent of a staff member’s salary, half based on the staff member’s evaluation and half based on an indexed student achievement score.

The bonuses worked out like this:

• $198,898.81: hourly bonuses

• $560,532.83: salaried bonuses

• $759,431.64: total bonuses

The bonuses are in addition to an average 4 percent salary increase for district employees, which are part of this year’s budget.

The school district spent $750,000 on performance pay bonuses last year.

Performance pay principles

The district stepped away from a longevity-based salary increase structure 13 years ago. Instead of lock-step salary increases based on years of employment, employees get performance bonuses.

The bonus amount previously ran between 0 and 8 percent of a district employee’s salary. Budget cuts the past few years reduced that amount.

The bonuses are paid based on student results, and a portion of individual raises are based on annual evaluations, said Jason Glass, superintendent.

However, the district’s philosophy on compensation is shifting. Glass said evidence that performance pay as a driver for student improvement is “very weak.” Equally weak, though, is the evidence that automatic pay raises based on years on the job helps student improvement, Glass said.

“Our employees aren’t motivated by money — no one goes into education thinking they will get rich,” Glass said. “Our employees are motivated to help kids, families and the community. However, like everyone else, school employees have to make a living and can’t ignore financial considerations.”

Glass said the goal is to attract top talent, get employees to a livable wage as quickly as possible and make the pay system fair and transparent.

The Colorado state Legislature made teacher performance evaluations the law when it passed House Bill 191. The law mandates teacher effectiveness and requires that it be measured. If teachers don’t measure up three years in a row, they lose tenure.

Eagle County started down this road more than a decade ago with a grant from the Milken Foundation at about the same time the school board installed the Teacher Advancement Program. Installing the TAP business model was problematic, and the school district soon abandoned it.

The school district retooled it into the current program and a federal grant kept the program funded. That grant ended in 2011 and the school district picked up the tab.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com. Follow Randy on Twitter at @torqueandrecoil.

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The VailDaily Updated Aug 25, 2014 10:05PM Published Aug 25, 2014 12:23PM Copyright 2014 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.