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SCS Chief Academic Officer Roderick Richmond presents his department's plans for budget cuts and spending.

SCS Chief Academic Officer Roderick Richmond presents his department’s plans for budget cuts and spending.

Tajuana Cheshier/Chalkbeat TN

Five-hour budget meeting sheds light on possible teacher bonuses, cuts and expenses

Shelby County Schools’ administrators gave insight into their plan to reward teachers for their performance in the classroom during a five-hour budget and finance committee meeting Friday.

Teachers with a proven track record of success can look forward to either a general pay or differentiated pay increase in the proposed 2014-15 budget, administrators said. They have not made a final decision yet.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson II said $15.6 million has been earmarked to provide teachers with a monetary incentive and reward.

“At the end of the day we want to come up with something that is fair for teachers to thank them for working hard and doing well,” Hopson said. “Talent is always a challenge; people see our lowest-performing schools as places they don’t want to go.  We have to develop our own teachers.”

During Friday’s meeting, members of Hopson’s leadership cabinet presented board members with individual department budget cuts and areas of investment.  All of the departments were hit with staff reductions.

In some departments the staff reductions were less than five positions while other departments are set to lose 50 positions or more.

SCS’s budget was cut by $227 million as a result of a loss of 33 schools that will become a part of the six municipal school districts in 2014-15.

With the district’s teacher compensation program, Hopson said all of the districts are in competition to attract and keep the best teachers.

SCS’s idea to reward high-performing teachers is a starting point, he said.

The district is considering whether to offer one-time bonus pay for all teachers or a more specific scale that uses teachers’ valued-added scores to determine the percentage of a pay increase a teacher would receive.

Under state law, all Tennessee school districts will be required in the 2014-15 school year to provide a differentiated pay plan for teachers.

According to the budget, a strategic compensation plan will be proposed by Jan. 15, 2015.

In the investment portion of the budget presentations, SCS ‘s focus next year will be on literacy programs and $5.9 million in proposed spending on a blended learning program. The blended learning program is a pilot initiative that will provide 17 schools with access to computers students can take home to continue learning.

Hopson said with Shelby County closing 10 schools next year, the schools that will absorb students from those schools will  receive additional support to address literacy and low proficiency rates.  Funds in academics and federal projects are geared to provide kindergarten through third grade reading teachers with more training and investing in testing to determine reading levels of students.

In cost-saving measures, SCS is planning to outsource its busing services and sell its fleet of buses for a projected $4.8 million as well as outsource janitorial services.

The board’s goal is to have a balanced budget adopted by June 30 and submit the budget to the state by Aug. 1.

The next step in the budgeting process is to allow community input and questions.  There will be  four meetings throughout the district beginning on March 17 through March 21.  All meetings begin at 5:30 p.m.

After the meeting, the board’s budget and finance committee chairman Chris Caldwell said he believes blended learning is a good investment and he also praised the efforts of I-Zone schools.

“After studying the budget, I see more than 50 percent of the money is going toward low-performing schools and we’re also investing in programs for high-achieving students,” Caldwell said. “I think this budget is the most comprehensive that I’ve seen and it’s given us a good foundation to start.”