I have always been interested in salary reform for educators. I was once a very good teacher; creating interesting lessons, differentiating my instruction, and stretching the abilities of my students. I worked long hours, cared about every student, and believed that it was my job to reach the student; not the students’ job to adapt to my teaching. I was a novice teacher and paid as such. I was aware of teachers who worked less, cared less, but were paid more because of their years of experience. At the time, I accepted the system; it may have been unfair, but “just the way is was” for a teacher pay system on step and level.

As a Director of Schools, I search for ways to recognize excellence in the classroom. I read with great interest emerging compensation models throughout the nation. With First to the Top (FttT), I realized, I finally had the opportunity to reward excellence and encourage growth for teachers with the FttT emphasis on the development of new salary structures. Pay for Performance, however, is controversial. Paying everyone the same because they have one more year in the classroom is “the way we have always done it”. Could I convince my district to do otherwise?

Last fall, a team of 22 educators; including supervisors, principals, teachers in tested and untested subjects, and community members; came together to discuss a compensation model to recognize educator excellence. The beginning plan for our system intended to use a portion of the locally awarded funds from FttT. During the planning process, and with additional monies from the Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) and Innovation Acceleration Fund (IAF), our committee was able to design an alternative salary schedule that includes a Base and Bonus model.

Our school board has approved the new pay scale that will link the performance and ability of our educators to compensation. It places Putnam County in the forefront of the salary reform movement in education, and allows teachers to be appropriately rewarded for the work they do every day. I am proud to be the Director of my district. Putnam County is already a good school system, and with this new model of compensation reform, I have no doubt, in the next several years, will become a great system and a leader in educational reform.

If you are interested in alternative salary schedules, take a few minutes to review this video. In the next several months, I will walk through our district processes of design of salary compensation, the challenges we faced, and difficult decisions to reach final consensus. As you will see, the “why to” was the easy part–the “how to” was much more challenging.