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Agreement Between Duval Schools, Teachers Union Clears Path For Incentive Pay Program

Rhema Thompson

An agreement reached between Duval County Public Schools and Duval Teachers United has set the stage for an unprecedented incentives program for educators, district officials say."This is the first of its kind throughout the nation of this high of an incentive for these teachers," Duval Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said at a press conference held Thursday morning at Rutledge Pearson Elementary.

The initiative, which takes effect next year, will allow high performing teachers and academic coaches in 36 of the district's most challenging schools to receive up to an additional $20,000 a year if they agree to stay for the next three years.

"So they will make what they normally make through their salary schedule process and in addition $20,000 to stay in these 36 schools," Vitti said.

Teachers in the core subjects of math, science and English are selected based on their prior year student achievement. Teachers that are  within those 36 schools — all part of the Raines, Ribault and Andrew Jackson High feeder pattern — and have value-added scores  that reflect a 25 percent growth in student performance are eligible to receive the pay bump.

Additionally, under the plan, teachers working outside the 36 designated schools would receive a $17,000 bump their first year if they agree to move and could receive the same increase or less in the next two years, depending on student performance.

Likewise, principals who have demonstrated an ability to raise student achievement would be eligible to get a $20,000 boost their first year if they work in one of the 36 schools. They receive the same, half or no incentive over the next two years, depending on the school’s grade.

Wednesday, Vitti said that 154 teachers have been identified by the district to qualify for the money. They'll receive a $20,000 pay boost in their first year and the same amount, half of it or no incentive in the subsequent two years based on student performance. Another 537 teachers from outside the 36 schools have been identified as qualified candidates to transfer into the schools next year. Currently, there are 57 open slots, he said.

"Starting this month, we will recruit 57 teachers to move into these schools that are currently not here based on their outstanding data," he said.

Under the memorandum of understanding signed by both the district and the union at the end of last month, district and school administrators also reserve the right to move or fire a teacher not "meeting the academic or social needs of the school's population."

During the press conference, local union president Terrie Brady became emotional at times when discussing the new plan.

"I will tell you the love and commitment that these teachers have given, not only at Pearson but at these other 36 schools is unprecedented," she said between tears. "They're there early in the morning. They're there late at night...because of one thing, they believe in their children, and now, their efforts are finally going to be rewarded."

The announcement was part of the public roll out of several multi-million dollar grants generated privately through a public-private venture known as Quality Education for All, or QEA.

The QEA initiative originated in 2004 by the Community Foundation for Northeast Florida to improve student achievement. The foundation began calling on local philanthropists and donors to aid in the effort.

By 2012, about two dozen local donors began pooling together private funds with an ultimate goal of raising $50 million to improve human capital in the district, particularly within in the district's lowest performing schools.

Currently, the group has raised $36 million, managed by the Jacksonville Public Education Fund, and has approved about $20 million in grants for the district. That includes a total of $15 million for the performance incentives program.

"We are the only city to do this with individual donors and corporate donors,"  said Nina Waters, president of the Community Foundation. "Most cities do this with large corporations that are headquartered in their city. We have not seen a district and a union work together the way that our district and our union has worked together; and why Jacksonville is not on the map for this trend-setting work that is happening, I don't know."

In addition to the recruitment and retention pay incentives, the QEA Fund investments also include professional development offerings that train selected teachers to become school administrators, and the recruitment of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) majors for a medical residency-style teacher preparation program.

Click here to learn more details about the other QEA initiatives taking place in the district.

Check back Monday for a deeper look into Duval County's Quest for Quality in education.

You can follow Rhema Thompson on Twitter @RhemaThompson.

Rhema Thompson began her post at WJCT on a very cold day in January 2014 and left WJCT to join the team at The Florida Times Union in December 2014.