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Oxford School District aims to fix the Incentive Pay issue

By Haley Myatt

Special to the EAGLE

To make up for the gap in incentive pay that the teachers at Bramlett Elementary School and Oxford Learning Center (OLC) did not receive during the 2015-2016 academic year, the school district plans to allocate money to enhance the teachers’ working environment with renovations and new supplies for the classrooms.

The incentive program is part of a teacher pay raise package that Gov. Phil Bryant signed into law in 2014. The Joint Legislative Budget Committee endorsed $20.4 million in funding for the program, which would provide up to $100 per student for schools that achieve “A” ratings or improve by a letter grade. Schools rated “B” would stand to get $75 per pupil.

The reason that Bramlett and OLC were excluded from getting the benefits of this program was due to the fact they did not have a first grade in the 2015-2016 academic year, which is required in getting money for the incentive pay program.

Superintendent Brian Harvey stated that the administration is allowing the teachers to decide how this money will be used to help them in their profession by allowing them to receive a combination of either new school supplies, furniture, or instructional materials.

While this may be the least favorable option, because teachers will not receive any money in their pockets, it will benefit the students at Bramlett and OLC.

“We are trying to fix what I believe to be a one-year issue,” Superintendent Harvey said. “I hope this will allow teachers to come to school every day and have a better classroom and get things they have been asking for for years. They won’t have to spend money out of their own pockets for classroom necessities.”

The other one of the other options that the school board discussed in a meeting last Monday night was to offer an incentive program based off of the student’s MCAT scores; however, board members opposed this option because it would only cater to Bramlett, as OLC does not take the MCAT. OLC is an alternative school that generally serves students with behavioral problems for a temporary amount of time.

The third option was not much better, according to board members.

It would offer some kind of incentive program based on perfect attendance from January to the end of the academic school year in 2018. The board felt like perfect attendance would be too difficult for teachers to execute.

“None of the options were very good,” Oxford School District Board of Trustees member Marian Barksdale said. “I think the one we selected was more practical and doable. We want to express to the teachers and let them know we are so sorry they got left out of the original formula.”

Business Manager for the Oxford School District Chuck Rainey said that this was the result of legislation and had nothing to do with anything the school board developed. He said that they did everything they legally could and “looked tirelessly at all of their options.”

Now that Bramlett does have a first grade, OSD Board of Trustees President Gray Edmondson says that the rules in the Department of Education should change.

“It is unfortunate that this has resulted in inequity for our teachers,” Edmondson said.

Educators possessing teaching certification in Mississippi earn less than their national counterparts according to the latest census.

“Teachers all across the state don’t get paid enough,” Barksdale said. “Any additional money teachers can put into their pockets is greatly appreciated.”

According to the Economic Policy Institute, the weekly wages of public school teachers in the United States were 17 percent lower than comparable college-educated professionals. Providing adequate wages and benefits is a crucial tool for attracting and keeping the teachers America’s children need.

“When other people in the district get to put money in their pockets and some don’t, it hurts. These teachers in the lower elementary help build the foundation for the success of all of our schools,” Barksdale said.

The board addressed that state legislation did not intend to hurt these teachers, they just did not realize they weren’t covering everybody in the state.

“Once we determined that some teachers had been left out, our immediate set of action was to see if we could remedy that,” Rainey said. “I hope the community understands our teachers are very important to us.”