Show me the money: Columbus schools to test teacher incentives

July 13, 2011 11:19:00 AM

Carmen K. Sisson - [email protected]


Teachers at two city schools may see a little extra money on their paychecks this year thanks to a pilot program, which will explore the link between teacher performance and student achievement. Columbus city school board members learned more about the Performance-Based Compensation System at Monday night''s board meeting.  


PBCS, part of a Teacher Incentive Grant, will be implemented this year as part of a state-funded, five-year pilot program at Cook Elementary, Franklin Academy and eight other schools across the state. At a previous school board meeting, Interim Superintendent Dr. Martha Liddell said it could mean as much as $5,000 extra per year for qualified teachers.  


Scott Lewis, of Hattiesburg education consulting firm Impact Mississippi, said teacher pay incentives may be given on individual, group and schoolwide levels for elements ranging from personal performance to student achievement growth.  


Lewis said a Vanderbilt study of the program''s usage in Nashville schools showed "it didn''t hurt and it didn''t help" in terms of improving teacher performance and student achievement, but he stressed performance-based compensation should be seen as only one component of an overall, multi-faceted strategy.  


"Don''t see the money as a silver bullet," Lewis said.  


Other changes that may be implemented include strategies to improve teacher collaboration as part of "professional learning communities," and a master/mentor program, which will place one master teacher and two mentor teachers in each school to train and assist other teachers.  


In other news, the school board declared the gymnasium and fine arts buildings at Hunt Intermediate School as surplus property, voting during executive session to allow the buildings to be leased to the Columbus-Lowndes Recreation Authority and R.E. Hunt Museum and Cultural Center Inc.  


The school, which was built in 1953 and closed in January, will be used for a number of community programs, including senior citizen exercise classes, arts and crafts classes, summer basketball and programs for children with special needs. 


The fine arts building will be used for a museum dedicated to preserving the school''s history.  


Johnny Johnson, who served as principal of Hunt from 1985 to 1992, is president of the R.E. Hunt Museum and Cultural Center, which will operate the museum.  


Johnson said the organization is in the process of applying for 501(c)3 status, which will allow it to work as a nonprofit and solicit donations. Currently, there are nine members on the board of directors, but Johnson said that number will eventually swell to 21.  


Hunt graduates have tossed the idea of a museum around for several years, he said, and it holds a special place in the hearts of many people, including him.  


"It was the mecca around here in the Lowndes County area," Johnson said. "It has lots of memories for lots of folks. I''d love to see Hunt be the mecca in Columbus and Lowndes County that people want it to be. I think it has made a valuable contribution to Lowndes County and surrounding areas, so we want to keep that memory alive." 


Johnson said once the organization attains nonprofit status, board members will solicit memorabilia and hold an open house.

Carmen K. Sisson is the former news editor at The Dispatch.