School Board considers new compensation model

by Jeff Pederson Sheboygan Falls News Editor

The Sheboygan Falls School Board learned the details of a new professional compensation model for teachers, during a monthly meeting Monday, Jan. 18, in the SFHS library.

District Director of Curriculum and Instruction Mary Lofy and Director of Business Services Mary Blaha presented the model, which is designed to provide financial rewards to teachers and educational specialists reaching distinguished levels of achievement.

Lofy stated that the model, which was introduced on a trial basis during the 2012-13 school year, evaluates teachers and educational specialists based on six performance standards, including professional knowledge, instructional planning-communication and collaboration, instructional deliveryassessment, assessment-program planning and management, learning environment-program delivery and professionalism.

The evaluation system for teachers and educational specialists is based on self assessment, observation, documentation log, survey, interim report, summative report, performance improvement and student learning objectives.

The four performance levels for teachers and educational specialists are distinguished, effective, developing-needs improvement and unacceptable.

“We give a rating in each of the six performance standards, as well as an overall rating for each teacher and educational specialist,” Lofy said. “We do the evaluations in a three-year cycle. The teachers and educational specialists get a rating after the first year. The third year is a summary year at the end of which we give the final ratings, which will result in awarding additional compensation if a distinguished rating is achieved.

“We use a very scientific method for each category,” she said. “A lot of work has gone into the evaluation process and it is designed to be hard to earn a distinguished rating, which is basically an A+ rating. Effective is an A rating, which is what we are striving for all teachers and specialists to achieve.”

Each distinguished rating results in an annual stipend of $750 for the first year, $500 for the second year and $250 for the third year following the final year of the three-year rating process.

“Distinguished ratings are very difficult to come by,” Lofy said. “So far, we’ve had a total of 50 distinguished ratings in individual categories. If a teacher or specialist earns a distinguished rating in one of the performance standards, they would receive the stipend.

“If a teacher or specialist would happen to earn an overall distinguished rating, they would receive one personal day or equivalent compensation, which is something very valuable to them,” she said.

The model also features provisions for teachers and specialists that do not reach an effective rating.

“If a teacher or specialist falls short of being rated effective, their salary will be frozen and they may be placed on probation,” Lofy said “There is also a possibility that their contract may not be renewed. In particular, if a teacher does not reach an effective rating in the professionalism performance standard, they could be in line for nonrenewal or at least be required to implement a plan of improvement for each standard below effective.”

The district developed the professional compensation model in the wake of the passage of Act 10 in June 2011, which effectively eliminated collective bargaining practices for teacher and staff salaries and benefits.

School Board President John Mauer said the professional compensation model reflects the dis- trict’s intentions to reward topnotch educators.

“After Act 10, we said as a board that we intended to reward good teachers going forward,” Mauer said. “I hope the staff feels that we are honoring our word with this model. We are trying hard with this not to leave people behind.

“At the same time, I think it is important that the distinguished rating is not something that is easily attained,” he said. “It should go to those that are the very best at what they do.”

District Administrator Jean Born said the model emphasizes the district’s commitment to retaining quality teachers.

“It has been five years since Act 10 and I feel the board has done a good job in standing by its commitment to keeping its promise to reward teachers. It will never be the same as it was before. Some aren’t ready to let go of that yet, but others are and I think you are seeing that in how this model has been received by our teachers.”

Board Member Vicky Bramstedt applauded the work of administrators and staff members involved in implementing the model.

“The administrators, teachers and staff members have put in a lot of time and effort and done a lot of great work on this,” Bramstedt said. “They should be commended for what they have done.”

Assistant Elementary and Middle School Principal Mike Nikson, who has dealt with the model as a teacher and and administrator, spoke highly of the process.

“The effectiveness part of it is important to teachers,” Nikson said. “Now it is not just about who has been here the longest. I think that is a big thing for teachers.

“The way the stipends will be spread out over three years make the sustainability aspect of it very clear as well,” he said. “Every teacher as now gone through at least part of the effectiveness project. Ratings have been assigned, but no stipends have been awarded yet.”

Board Member Naomi Borgenhagen expressed her approval of the model.

“I like that teachers can get a stipend for being distinguished in each individual category,” Borgenhagen said. “I think that is very motivating for teachers.”

Born said the professional compensation model will be presented to the board for approval at its next meeting on Monday, Feb. 15.

In other business, the board approved the designation of available spaces for regular and special education open enrollment for the 2016-17 school year.

No limits were placed on available spaces for 4-year-old kindergarten through 12th grade students for the 2016-17 school year.

Conversely, no spaces were made available to early childhood through 12th grade students in the special education program for the 2016-17 school year.

The board approved the second and final reading of NEOLA policies covering the open enrollment program and policy and course options.

The board approved a high school fishing club trip to Black Bear Lodge in Red Lake, Ontario, Canada July 22-30.

The board approved an overnight high school ski and snowboard club trip to Granite Peak in Wausau Feb. 20-21.

The board also approved the implementation of the Laude grading system at the high school level.

The new Laude system replaces the current class rankings format with a new grading process that recognizes and rewards students who take more rigorous courses.

During a presentation to the board at its December meeting, Sheboygan Falls High School Counselor Janis Jarosch said the emphasis on class rank and grade point average has had a negative affect on some students in their efforts to get into colleges, due to the fact that not all students take the same courses.

She noted that under the current grading system, students sometimes avoid taking more rigorous courses due to concerns over the possible impact on their class rank and grade point average, which are major determining factors in college acceptance.

Under the Laude system, each course is designated with a point value, which is multiplied by a student’s GPA to come out with an overall point total to be used for recognition at graduation.

Point totals qualify students for recognition at the Cum Laude, (30.6-55.99 points) Summa Cum Laude (56-79.99 points) and Magna Cum Laude (80-104 points) levels.

Under the Laude system, each semester course would equal 1 point and students would need to maintain a 3.2 GPA through the first semester of their senior year to be considered for Laude recognition at graduation.

Students earning highest Summa Cum Laude honors would wear at gold sash, Magna Sum Laude honor students would wear at silver sash and Cum Laude recipients would have a yellow sash at the graduation ceremony.

The switch to the Laude grading system also eliminates the selection of valedictorians and salutatorians for each graduating class.

SFHS Principal Luke Goral said the current freshman class will be the first class to utilize the Laude grading system.

With the impending absence of valedictorians and salutatorians, Goral said the process for determining student graduation speakers is still to be determined.

The next Sheboygan Falls School Board meeting will take place Monday, Feb. 15, at 6:30 p.m. in the Sheboygan Falls High School library.

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