BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
The Greeneville City School System hopes to be the first in the state to submit a proposed differentiated pay plan -- a new plan for formulating how much each teacher is paid each year.
The board met on Thursday at the central school office on West Depot Street to approve a recommendation for the plan, as well as to take action on a handful of other items, such as annual board goals.
The Tennessee Department of Education is requiring school districts to submit differentiated pay plans for the 2014-15 school year.
During the board's fall retreat, Director of Schools Dr. Linda Stroud proposed a pay plan that gives additional compensation for additional instructional duties.
The plan is intended to help the system avoid instituting a "merit pay" policy, which local school system leaders have vocally opposed on a number of occasions.
Merit pay provides teachers with more money the higher they score on their teacher evaluations.
Stroud noted that the Central Office team worked to form the recommendation for the board, opening their meetings to teachers and principals.
"Our teachers preferred to go with the supplemental pay for additional responsibilities and not do away with our current salary schedule," Stroud said.
A merit pay schedule based on a teacher's performance on annual evaluations would have been "nearly impossible" without additional local funding, Stroud added.
She explained that the majority of the system's teachers score a 4 or a 5 out of 5 on their evaluations, and there are no level-1 teachers in the district.
Therefore, the district could not afford to pay more to the many high-performing teachers.
Stroud said that she intends to submit the plan, which the board unanimously approved, on the morning of the first day the state accepts submissions, in an effort to be the first school district to submit a differentiated pay plan.
Board of Education Chairman Craig Ogle supported the plan, saying that it would encourage collaboration. "We believe that collaboration enhances education," he said.
Also highlighting Thursday's meeting was a presentation by the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE), recognizing the system for "dramatically improving student achievement."
SCORE Director of Innovation Laura Moore presented the district with a banner in recognition of its placement as one of three finalists in the district category for the 2013 SCORE Prize.
Moore praised the system for empowering all stakeholders as leaders.
"Ultimately, like any good family, you make sure no one is left behind or forgotten," she said.
Ogle praised SCORE's work and said he hopes to see the district qualify again next year.
Stroud also said that it had been a "wonderful process" that provided the system with valuable feedback.
In other presentations, the board recognized board member Jerry Anderson for receiving two Tennessee School Board Association awards -- the Platinum Pin for conducting a total of 25 presentations within the Ambassador Program and the Scholars Circle award for achieving Level V in the Boardsmanship Award Program.
Dr. Beverly Miller also received the Tennessee Educational Technology Association's Dr. Howard Sisco District Chief Technology Officer Award.
The board also approved its five-year board goals, including the recommended adjustments from the board's fall retreat.
The revised board goals include:
* Provide excellence in programs.
* Provide world-class educators.
* Provide a state-of-the-art learning environment.
* Maintain fiscal stability, responsibility and accountability.
* Cultivate family and community engagement.
NO BUS LIMITS
The Tennessee Board of Education asked districts across the state to consider adopting a resolution to urge the Tennessee General Assembly to eliminate the service limits on conventional school buses.
Currently, school systems may only operate buses for 17 years or 200,000 miles.
"Many buses are still viable and safe for continued use beyond the current retirement requirements due to diligent maintenance and regular inspections performed by the Tennessee Department of Safety," according to the resolution.
Stroud emphasized this point as well after Ogle raised the question of bus safety.
"One of the things I continue to be concerned about is, if we pass a resolution such as this, how does it impact safety?" Ogle questioned.
Stroud called on Operations Supervisor Phillip Graham, who explained that the buses would still have annual safety inspections and are built with safety in mind. He said he is confident such a change would not sacrifice safety.
Stroud said a "caveat" is that the district would still rely on the Town of Greeneville to fund the regular purchase of buses for the system, since replacements would still be necessary, even if less often.
Finally, the board approved several reports, including financial statements presented by Chief Financial Officer Nicole Buchanan.
Buchanan reported that, through November, the district is down $38,000 in receipts from property tax collections from this time last year.
She said that part of the comparative shortfall is due to the system's lower average daily attendance, which is the key factor the state uses to determine a school system's funding.
An additional factor is that the county also reported being about $200,000 behind in its tax collections.
By contrast, sales tax collections were up by $2,000 in November, she said.
The board also accepted Professional Development Coordinator Robbie Mitchell's presentation of the school system's annual report.
The book contains vision, mission and belief statements for the Greeneville City School System.
Assistant Director of Schools for Instruction Suzanne Bryant also presented a brief overview of the annual state report card for the district.
Bryant and the board praised the system's success over the past year, noting that the system received A's in all subjects for grades 3-8 on its Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) scores.
Bryant further noted that the report card highlights demographic data indicating a growing Hispanic student population.
While Hispanics represent 1.7 percent of high school seniors, the same ethnic and cultural group represents 7.8 percent of kindergarten students.
The assistant director said that the system "welcomes" this diversity, but is also working to overcome what she said are resulting challenges in teaching reading.
Anderson noted that the board has as a goal to increase diversity among teachers.
Stroud also gave her annual report, in which she announced that the system's teachers pledged to give more to the United Way this year than ever before -- $14,000.