Fulton’s surprise bonuses: Do they create two classes of educators?

Fulton County is using surplus funds to award teacher bonuses this year, a move that ought to be cheered by the county’s teaching force. But the decision is proving divisive given the plan to award classroom teachers  $1,000 and those who “support teachers”  $500.

The school board voted last week to spend $9.4 million in surplus funds on employee bonuses to make up for missed raises.  Classroom teachers will receive $1,000. All other full-time employees in support roles and in central office will receive $500. See the AJC story here.

An educator who falls into the support category said she was unhappy with school chief Robert Avossa’s explanation for the disparity, an explanation that she felt denigrated her efforts, commitment and professionalism.

“Most of us would agree that in a school system, you have two groups of employees – teachers and those who support teachers,” said Dr. Avossa. “We value the contribution that every employee makes to our system, so everyone is included in this plan. But few would argue about the impact that classroom teachers have on student achievement. They contribute more to the success of individual students and for that reason they are receiving the lion’s share.”

Here is what one support staffer had to say about that:

We can all be voted upon by our colleagues as a Teacher of the Year but, it appears, that carries no weight when compensation “bonuses” are handed out.  If he is truly trying to erase the “divisive nature” of this county, as he said in a recent Teacher Advisory Council meeting, then he has truly missed the mark.

I have heard from several media specialists about this two-tier bonus. They feel it disrespects what they do and how well they do it.

But a Fulton classroom teacher told me that she and her peers deserve the bonuses because they’re the ones under the hot glare of test scores and the ones who take the heat when the school doesn’t show improvement.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

74 comments Add your comment

C Jae of EAV

February 29th, 2012
10:21 am

I don’t understanding the what the moaning is about. First bonus compensation in these days in times is uber plus to begin with. Second, in my experience when I worked a job that offered some form of bonus, every employee didn’t get the same amount in bonus compensation.

If I was in their position, I would be delighted for the opportunity to recieve anything.

William Casey

February 29th, 2012
10:25 am

I was a teacher of history until my retirement but favor equal bonuses for all teachers who have daily contact with students.

Northatlantateacher

February 29th, 2012
10:26 am

Very fair. I’ve never believed support teachers should be paid as much because they have less responsibility – and significantly less grading. We often hear our pay scale us broken, and it is. When a PE teacher can make more than an AP teacher simply because they got an online PhD in “curriculum and instruction” there’s a problem.

MiltonMan

February 29th, 2012
10:30 am

“Adults” complaining about a difference of $500??? And we wonder why are schools are terrible.

johnny too good

February 29th, 2012
10:35 am

What about the SPED Interrelated teachers who move about the campus?

And no, support teachers do not have less responsiblity

nelsonhoward

February 29th, 2012
10:36 am

I have never heard it put that way before. I see the reasoning. The support teachers like art and physical education are out of the main stream as opposed to reading, writing and arithmetic. That is very true. If the school wants the suppot teachers, pay them the same. They have a four year education same as classroom teachers.
2nd class would be secretaries, janitors, bus drivers and of course administration. They are not classroom, they support the classroom activities.
Knock off those mega salaries. They are support personnel.
I remember this tiny school, had about 20 teachers[k-12] and every year the 1 custodian got in the picture with the classroom teachers. One of the teachers had a fit that the[low life custodian got in the picture.]
Sooooooo, support employees, include the Principal and his support personnel.

Northatlantateacher

February 29th, 2012
10:36 am

@miltonman: adults can find things to complain about anywhere, in any job. Mention money and it’s a given. I’m not sure why you italicized the word adult or the point you’re trying to make – is $500 chump change for you or something?

homeschooler

February 29th, 2012
10:37 am

Totally appropriate. That’s the way it works in the “real” world. These people have just spent too long in this “everything is equal” bubble that we call a school system . Get over it. Life’s not always fair and equal. Teachers are paid more because they have a higher education and/or more experience and/or more responsibility. The bonuses should reflect that.

cris

February 29th, 2012
10:37 am

@northatlantateacher your comment sickens me…..there are excellent teachers – in ALL subject areas (including PE) who work their tails off for students. And, of course, there are poor teachers in ALL subject areas who do little. I guess I’m considered a “support” teacher by this definition, but I also teach AP and IB classes with no extra compensation other than what my degree and years experience dictate. There is no less responsibilty and certainly no less grading – and while I don’t have standardized test to be “used against or for” me, my area is usually the first one to go once those test scores are in. Shame on you….no wonder teachers are not effective in changing policy, since we’re so busy attacking each other.

Tony

February 29th, 2012
10:40 am

And herein lies the rub for all the educators who work hard everyday to make sure every child is learning. At our school, art, music and PE teachers routinely tutor struggling students to get them up to speed in reading and math. Every person in our school has a responsibility to every child to make sure the children are learning.

The divisive nature of bonuses and performance pay when applied in situations like Fulton has done sends a clear and unmistakable message to the “non-classroom” teachers that their work is of lesser value. Plenty of research has made it clear that performance pay HURTS organizations rather than helps them. Yet, this information is routinely ignored.

Attitudes like MiltonMan and Northatlantateacher are indicative of people who are ill-informed as to how school personnel work together to help every student in the building. These attitudes are also demonstrated by our politicians who continue to denigrate the myriad teachers in our state who work hard every day and get good results in their classrooms.

ByteMe

February 29th, 2012
10:48 am

Last I checked, there was no federal pressure to raise “art test scores” like there is for reading and math. More risk, more reward.

On another (third?) hand, I’m more for bonuses based on performance and not based on risk. You could teach math but suck at it and get the bigger bonus, which is a bad idea. I’d rather teachers get bonuses based on their ability to help their students and other teachers improve their performance… not based on their current position at the school.

Happy Kine and The Mirth Makers

February 29th, 2012
10:52 am

“Art teachers, music teachers, PE teachers, and media specialists apparently are only worth half of a classroom teacher.”

Yes…and in fact they are! How could one possibly, with any degree on honesty, think a music teacher should receive the same pay/bonus whatever, as say a calculus teacher, a science teacher, a history teacher.

The $500 bonus employees argument is stupid and juvenile. Further, if they are that dis-satified I recommend they give it back, quit, obtain a higher degree or find another profession.

CryBabys!!

johnny too good

February 29th, 2012
10:53 am

Something similar to this was done in Savannah not too long ago, specific subjects(math, science, SPED) were given signing bonuses, all other teachers, English, Social Studies, and CTAE didnt get anything at all

Northatlantateacher

February 29th, 2012
10:53 am

Not ill informed. I’ve worked in 4 schools, middle and high. I’ve had several special Ed teachers in my classroom. All but one was on the Internet all period…one took my class to balance her checkbook. Should they get the full 1000? Not sure. What about the PE teacher who doesn’t to plan lessons, who doesn’t even stay in the gym when there is a class? Uses class time -daily – to work on a diploma, and brags about it? This is not to say there aren’t excellent and dedicated support teachers out there, but generally speaking we are talking about apples and oranges. Look,
the reality is there are some teachers with more responsibilty than others. That needs to be recognized and rewarded. Only a select few can teach upper level AP/IB courses – especially math and science – which is why bonuses for those people were available before the money dried up in ‘08.
Typing from my phone. Please excuse any errors.

johnny too good

February 29th, 2012
10:57 am

@ByteMe, in education its very difficult to find an accurate measuring tool for teacher performance

Northatlantateacher

February 29th, 2012
10:57 am

@Tony I have never worked in a school like you describe or had an experience even close to that. In that case, yes. They should receive the same compensation.

ByteMe

February 29th, 2012
11:06 am

@ByteMe, in education its very difficult to find an accurate measuring tool for teacher performance

In corporate world as well. But they do have measuring tools for their employees. You can’t expect everything to be absolutely perfect, but you can try to foster a certain type of behavior amongst your employees, which other employees will be happy to tell you whether that happened or not.

dcb

February 29th, 2012
11:24 am

Silly argument here. In a day and age regardless of whether raises have been given in the last couple of years, cuts have been. How about using the money to either reinstate teachers and paraprofessionals, or provide more materials for the classroom – as all teachers are screaming for. Bonuses are like merit pay. Give them one year and if not received the next, the grief given is much greater and proves not to be worth the hassle in the first place.

Pompano

February 29th, 2012
11:34 am

They should not be giving an across-the-board bonus to all employees anyway. It should be weighted individually based on performance and contribution. Top performers should be compensated at a higher rate while those at the lower-end should not be rewarded.

Oh… I forgot we were talking about a Public School System. My bad.

Elizabeth

February 29th, 2012
11:41 am

How ridiculously uninformed are those who think that music, art, P.E. and media specialists do not contribute to the academic learning process. There are hundreds of excellent research studies that prove just the opposite. Music and art have been proven to improve academic performance in all students– particularly in Math. Studetns who are active in P.E. are not only healthier but also more able to sit through classes because they have worked off some of their energy. And Media Specialists– well, when I was one, I taught EVERY student in the schools the research process and the technology skills they needed to succeed. I promoted reading and academic learning in all areas. I taught classes three days out of 5 and so do most media specialists I know today. Schools with a stong media program have been shown to have students twith higher academic success. Reading and mathematics skills are necessary to every area of life. How dare you presume that some should receive less money? We would not be successful without them. And I am an English teacher with grades 6-12 certification and 30 years classroom experience. Next we will be asking if the Physics teacher deserves more pay than the biology teacher. What we need is those who have a thorough mastery of their subject AND the ability to teach to their students. You are not just a Physics teacher; you are a SCIENCE teacher who should have knowledge of ALL of your subject area because they are related. Should I get more money to teach 12th grade British litgerature than the 11th grade American Literature teacher does? No, because I have to be able and prepared to teach American literature next year if I am needed to do so. School needs change and rarely have I taught the same thing each year.If you are going to start devaluing some areas, then morale will be worse than it is. And that is not good for studnts. We are NOT a business and we cannot be treated like one bedcause our product– educated students- is NOT uniform. It never will be.

justjanny

February 29th, 2012
11:47 am

with all of this vitriole, don’t give anyone a @#$! thing…welcome to the real world dr. avossa…D if you do and D if you don’t! Folks, just get in there and teach kids to love learning…my teachers did!

Jefferson

February 29th, 2012
11:53 am

Bonuses are for making your company extra money, teachers are professionals whose get paid for what they do. If they don’t do, they should not get paid.

Negatory to the Lowest Common Denominator

February 29th, 2012
11:56 am

Every cent of those needless bonuses came from someone’s property taxes! No more bonuses, this is not found money, it comes out of people’s pockets.

MiltonMan

February 29th, 2012
12:01 pm

NorthAtlanatateacher = what is wrong with schools. I have taught my kids that “life is not fair”. Teachers like you come behind me & shoot this down with this social promotion crap, making sure all kids have the same/fair education, etc., etc., make me sick.

Tyrone

February 29th, 2012
12:02 pm

Surplus?

If Fulton County has a slush fund then it may be time to roll back the school tax millage rate. I’m sure the taxpayers could find a better use for their money.

Beverly Fraud

February 29th, 2012
12:07 pm

“But few would argue about the impact that classroom teachers have on student achievement”

Well at least the guy is honest (though it would come as no surprise if he didn’t intend to be) in that the bonus is about TEST SCORES, and not about rewarding teachers who have a positive impact on a child’s life.

On the other hand, doesn’t EVERYBODY have a story to tell about a P.E. coach (not ALL P.E. coaches, mind you) who rolled a ball on the gym floor, said “have at it” and blew a whistle 45 minutes later?

johnny too good

February 29th, 2012
12:23 pm

@Elizabeth, I am in full agreeance, very good and accurate response

Sarah Coulter

February 29th, 2012
12:26 pm

P.E. teachers, Art teachers, and Music teachers work hard. How many of you can pick up a violin and teach a music class? How many of you can inspire art in kids so that they can grow up and work with Dreamworks or Pixar?

I knew a kid that was horrible behavior wise. Yet, he was one of the most talented kids when it came to percussion. I knew another kid that was lousy at reading and math (no interest), but was a very talented artist.

As for P.E. teachers. How many of the teachers or parents would take a one or two grade levels at one time? I know P.E. teachers that do that because classroom teachers need a break after testing, and they send all of their students to the gym for the P.E. teachers to handle.

And why businesses aren’t hiring is because of attitudes like Miltonman. “Oh, you should be grateful you are getting anything.” Why should they hire more employees when you have people that are grateful that you toss them anything? Who cares if the bonuses promised a while ago didn’t pan out? As long as they keep their jobs. “You only get fifteen minutes of lunch, Miltonman, because I want you to finish that project.” “Okay boss, at least I get fifteen minutes of lunch.”

Watch him come on here and say either: 1. He is his own boss and has his own business (common response on the internet) 2. He is retired.

bob from account temps

February 29th, 2012
12:30 pm

recind the bonus and return the funds to the tax payers.

Teacher

February 29th, 2012
12:31 pm

When I complain to my wise Old Father about how Principals make so much more money or how Department Chairs make their own schedules etc. etc this is his comment every time. Then become a Principal or Department Chair and stop complaining. I quess my answer to everyone then would be, Then become a regular classroom teacher and get the full bonus next time.

Beverly Fraud

February 29th, 2012
12:35 pm

What about the security officers who provide a safe environment so that administrators can come in AFTER HOURS and “(e)raise those test scores”?

Don’t they deserve a bonus as well?

JohnsCreek Mom

February 29th, 2012
12:51 pm

Can’t we (FCBOE) employees just be happy that we received a BONUS PERIOD!? OMG! This was something that was totally unexpected. When the announcement was made it was literally less than one week ago and we found out that it would be in our February 29th paycheck! Yippee!! I’m sorry, but I’m happy to receive any type of bonus . . . $500 to my family is truly a blessing. Take it for what it is . . . a bonus. Stop acting like spoiled children. All teachers are valued and appreciated!

hildymac

February 29th, 2012
12:52 pm

Didn’t Marietta give a $500 bonus across the board earlier this year? My question is, with the uncertainty in the economy and problems with paying for just about anything, why not hold on to that money to save jobs if need be? This is irresponsible regardless of how much money you toss out there to people.

HS Public Teacher

February 29th, 2012
12:53 pm

Let’s be perfectly clear here, because the information is wrong. These so-called “bonuses” are not true bonuses. As Avossa said, this is a REFUND of the furlough days where they with-held our money while we had to work. So in reality, this is our regular pay.

As such, the regular pay of a teacher is more than the regular pay of a support person. So doesn’t it reason that this “bonus” be different as well?

Security officers never had any furlough days, by the way.

Northatlantateacher

February 29th, 2012
12:54 pm

@miltonman: ? This is a blog about teacher compensation, not social promotion.

Entitlement Society

February 29th, 2012
12:56 pm

Again, your government schools at their finest… only here do we get to read the posts of teachers bashing one another (classroom vs support) over a handout of $500. In the next story, they’ll post about their long hours devoted to their students and how they’ve given up all of their free time, meanwhile they’ve got plenty of time to bash each other and complain about “free” handouts (that is our tax money) being unexpectedly showered upon them. Talk about ingrates.

atlmom

February 29th, 2012
1:04 pm

Isn’t the problem that it’s the same across the board? That all teachers get the same thing?
When one is in a ‘real’ job – doesn’t one understand that different people get different bonuses – based on history, salary, and job completion/competence?
The problem is with a system that pays everyone the same. So one can get angry that ’support’ teachers are getting less…but the problem is that there is no system of evaluation to say that teacher A did a fantastic job, so she/he gets more than teacher B who is phoning it in (and believe me, some of those are ‘real’ teachers and some of those are ’support’ teachers, in each group).

Entitlement Society

February 29th, 2012
1:14 pm

@North Atlanta Teacher – if you have been witness to such ineffective teachers in your own classrooms, what have you done about it? What were the repercussions for those individuals wasting our tax dollars? Are they reformed or are they now out of the system? I sincerely hope those individuals were properly dealt with, or you are just as much of the problem if this occured in your own classroom as you claim.

Dekalbite

February 29th, 2012
1:16 pm

Classroom teachers have the most accountability so they should receive the bulk of the bonus. I have been both classroom and support. When I was a support teacher, I always knew who was the person most accountable for ensuring students mastered the content of math, science, social studies and language arts – the grade level teachers in elementary schools and the content area teachers in middle and high school. They would be sorely missed, but the schools could function without support teachers. However, schools could absolutely not function without the teachers who teach marh, science, social studies and language. These are the subjects that our children MUST master to be successful in life. Support teachers are called that because they are there to “support” what happens in the regular education classroom.

Ed Johnson

February 29th, 2012
1:19 pm

Dr. Avossa said: “We value the contribution that every employee makes to our system, so everyone is included in this plan. But few would argue about the impact that classroom teachers have on student achievement. They contribute more to the success of individual students and for that reason they are receiving the lion’s share.”

Dr. Avossa evidences great failure on at least two accounts:
1. Failure to understand the psychology of people, and
2. Failure to understand what a system is.

Atlanta Mom

February 29th, 2012
1:31 pm

Seems to me that they should have reduced the furlough days by one, and paid the teachers to work.

williebkind

February 29th, 2012
1:35 pm

It was surplus money of 9.4m. Did they have to spend it? Is not spending the problem we have with state and federal government. I know many state employees that have not received a pay raise in years and they are getting zero. What is that about?

Mountain Man

February 29th, 2012
1:42 pm

The bonus issue becomes even more confusing when bonuses are being returned for teachers who cheated on tests. Cheaters may receive a contract for the next school year because of a technicality, so this will all end up in court too.

@Entitlement Society – Aside from being an idiot, you must also be very eclectic with your knowledge. Based on your pseudo-astute opinions on the subject at hand, I bet you do your own surgery, dentistry, legal defense along with guiding rocket science for NASA. Some in education would ask you to teach for a day; however, you are not a teacher, lack the credentials and OBVIOUSLY lack the common sense to recognize that our educational system, with all it’s faults, is still the glue that holds our great nation together.

By the way Entitlement, how many hours per day do you work for free at your job, assuming you have one?

Entitlement Society

February 29th, 2012
2:08 pm

@Mountain Man – “our educational system, with all it’s faults, is still the glue that holds our great nation together.” (Obviously, you must be a product of government education, with your usage of “it’s.”) Our nation is anything but great these days and public education is certainly not producing the legions of independent thinking, self-sufficient, productive members of society that this country needs to lead the world. I wouldn’t dare let my children cross the threshold of any government school ever again. I made that mistake one year with APS, so yes, I have seen firsthand the difference between a public and a private education. No comparison (and for the record, my comments about the failing government education system are made as I contrast the private school environment that I am now experiencing. There are no whining teachers quibbling about money, furloughs, etc. They are teachers because they want to be there to teach my children. If they are unhappy, they leave. That’s the way it should be in any school.). By the way, it’s none of your business how many hours I work at my job and completely irrelevant to this blog.

Sarah Coulter

February 29th, 2012
2:20 pm

You are right, Entitlement. In private schools, you can find the best drugs. And you don’t have to worry about Mommy and Daddy being home after school because they are too busy trying to keep up with the Joneses and making their six-figure incomes.

Cheers!

Entitlement Society

February 29th, 2012
2:35 pm

@ Sarah, wow! What private school did you attend? Certainly not the one I attended, nor the one my children attend. Maybe your private school had a drug problem and your parents weren’t there for you after school, but our school does not, keeps a watchful eye to be sure that students and parents are well-educated on the topic, and the overwhelming majority (myself included) is there EVERYDAY afterschool to be a parent to our children. The parents at the school my children attend are much more involved in the school than the parents were at the neighborhood public school we experienced, so once again, I am in a position to make accurate comparisons. FYI – It doesn’t take a six-figure income to attend private school (I can vouch for that); it takes sacrifice and dedication.

SUPLUS FUNDS????

February 29th, 2012
2:43 pm

There is “$9.4 million in surplus funds ?” !!!!!

WHAT?

Then why do we have to pay SPLOST for eight years and STILL have not received the money to buld much needed classrooms. THIS IS CRAZY and an outrage.

Good Mother

$1,000 bonus for teacher?

February 29th, 2012
2:46 pm

What, a $1,000 bonus for a teacher and no bonus for our football coachees? Say it ain’t so. Football is the most imporant thing to learn in this country isn’t it?

GM

northatlantateacher

February 29th, 2012
3:03 pm

@entitlement society: I’m part of the problem because I do my job and let the people in charge of teacher evals do theirs? Alright then.

@Sarah: You make some important points. Inspiration is the cornerstone of good teaching. It is, however, not measurable, and therefore not something that can be compensated with the current pay system or any other that’s been proposed lately. I do not agree with it, but it is the way things are right now.
The part about PE teachers “giving teachers a break during testing” bit, I’m sorry, but that’s not really something that deserves a bonus as I don’t believe teachers should openly heave off their (elementary age?) kids to the PE teachers. I understand young children needing to get out the willies after testing, so why can’t the classroom teacher take them outside for a little bit? Why expect the PE teacher to do what amounts to babysitting?

Sandy Springs Parent

February 29th, 2012
3:10 pm

If he was going to be bold and split up the bonus pool why didn’t he be innovative and split up by a real matrix. One that is already measurable. How about the average grade of the class on the final in December. They can measure this right now. It is on every students grade report, just logging into the system. My daughter had two of the worst teachers she has ever encountered last semester. One in AP US History and one in Physics, sure enough the average grade of all of the students in each of these classes on the final exam in December was below failing. Well below 70. Now neither one of these horrible teachers should get a bonus. Parents were forced to pay private tutors for Physics. So many people were coming in, the morning for help it was ridiculous. This East Indian teacher couldn’t get it that these American students couldn’t get it. My childs tutor who taught at a Private school said she obviously either didn’t teach it correctly or their was a major language barrier. Then the AP US History teacher, the baseball coach, who has just been made the Athletic Director. Well, he announced at the open house that these smart kids needed to feel failure for the first time in their lives. Then he was too busy to help them any afternoon. The real thing was he wasn’t teaching anything, I could do just as well taking the AP tests on-line 30 years out of school, ( never taking AP US History) then my daughter did taking his class. But both these bad teachers clearly showed on their average grades being below failing. They should not get a bonus.

The data is already there.

By the way, my middle school daughter’s best teachers and the ones that have kept her motivated have been Art, Chorus, PE, Spanish. She has straight A’s in these subjects, she loves these classes. These classes keep the kids motivated. Thank goodness Fulton has PE daily it keeps my child thin.