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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Richland 1 OKs bonuses

Posted on Wed, Dec. 12, 2007
Richland 1’s rewards for school improvements prove costly
Bonus pay is coming this month to Richland 1 employees who the school system says produced better academic results by students a year ago. But it’s going to cost the district nearly double initial estimates.

Five members of Richland 1’s school board approved spending $1.97 million on the controversial incentive pay Tuesday night, nearly $1 million more than superintendent Allen J. Coles projected earlier this year.

Raises will range from $150 for non-teachers in schools where performance improvement met district goals to about $2,000 for educators. All told, 927 employees will get a bonus.

The escalation in the incentive plan’s cost drew rebukes from some board members.
Coles came in for criticism from trustees Wendy C. Brawley and Vince Ford for the way he handled projections and disseminated the final numbers of people who qualify for the extra pay.

Brawley cast the lone dissenting vote, while Ford abstained.
Even trustee Dwayne Smiling, who voted with the majority, had harsh words for Coles.
“I am for the ‘pay for results’ plan. I always have been,” Smiling said. “What I’m against is ... it seems our superintendent often places the board in a predicament. If we don’t approve something, it’s our fault.”

Coles recommended the district offer extra pay to teachers and support staff at schools where students made significant gains in academic performance. About half the district’s schools received state report cards in November that showed their students made progress.

Ford and Brawley complained the criteria explaining how the money would be doled out lacked clarity. Coles said the guidelines have been well-publicized on the district’s Web site.

“We have an obligation to our employees to pay them the money we said we would,” Coles said. “Anything short of that would impact morale.”

Employees at schools that moved from an “unsatisfactory” rating to “below average” were eligible for extra pay, a situation Ford said did not warrant a bonus.

“Below average is not stretched,” Ford said.
Brawley said she was troubled that details of how much money is needed for the plan were difficult to come by until a day or so before Tuesday night’s meeting.

“Give us the same respect (that) you give your staff,” Brawley told Coles.
Trustee Jasper Salmond said the bonus pay “is a pretty good increase” reflecting performances that were difficult to predict.

“There’s an integrity issue,” Salmond said. “You’ve made promises to people.”
The district will tap a $1.6 million fund left over from the 2005-06 school year, Coles said.
Reach Robinson at (803) 771-8482.

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