Athens Teachers ‘Granted’ TAP Bonuses

Athens Teachers ‘Granted’ TAP Bonuses
Thursday, December 11, 2014 11:00 am

Christmas came a little early for some Athens City Schools teachers.

More than $250,000 in bonus checks was distributed Wednesday to professional educators who were involved with instruction during the last school year as part of Athens City Schools’ Teacher Advancement Program (TAP).

The bonuses were primarily paid through a Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) grant the system received in 2012 from the U.S. Department of Education to apply toward implementing TAP, which is designed to revitalize the teaching profession through leadership opportunities, professional development, evaluation and performance-based compensation.

“Our local match was $25,000 to be able to hand out $250,000 to our educators. That’s a great deal and a great way for us to be able to recognize them for the hard work they’ve put in above and beyond the regular school day to help our students achieve,” said Athens Director of Schools Robert Greene. “There was no state raise this year and Athens was able to give a small bonus to all of our staff members, so we’re glad to also be able to do this for those professional educators who were involved in instruction last year to recognize their hard work in helping the kids achieve their best.”

Athens City Schools received more than $5 million in TIF grant funds to implement the program by providing TAP master and mentor teachers in every school who work with administrators as a leadership team to drive instruction in schools by setting goals, establishing weekly professional development meetings and a rigorous evaluation system and creating a performance-based pay schedule for teachers based on classroom observation and student achievement.

The bonuses come as part of the performance-based pay schedule and are based on teachers’ individual evaluations and classroom performance, as well as overall school achievement.

“If I do well, but my school overall doesn’t, I get less of a bonus. If I do well and the school does well, my bonus goes up. So, this program enhances teamwork,” Greene said. “TAP doesn’t just say you do well individually and get rewarded. It encourages working together with all teachers in the building to make sure all students – yours and your colleagues’ – do their best. That’s what I like about this model. It’s made some changes in the way we do business, but the level of professionalism has grown, too. And, it gives a new level of accountability.”

It’s a positive change Greene said won’t disappear once the grant is gone.

“This is the best professional development, the best training for teachers I’ve ever seen. If the grant went away tomorrow, we’d still have this training in place. It’s created a true learning community in our system,” Greene said.

Principals Holly Owens of North City School and Mike Simmons of Athens City Middle School echoed that sentiment.

“The growth in our teachers’ skills and for me, personally, is immeasurable,” Owens said. “I don’t know that you could ever repay everyone for every hour they’ve put into this. We’re fortunate to be able to recognize our teachers in this way.”

“The hard work done by our teachers will be reflected in the kids for many years to come,” Simmons added.

The local economy will benefit, as well, according to Greene.

“In the short-term, we’re adding $250,000 to the local economy right at Christmastime,” Greene said, “and, in the long-term, the youth of our community are getting a top-notch education, which helps our community, as well.”

The latter part is what seems to drive the teachers most.

“The money is really a bonus, because the more important thing is doing our best to help the kids. That’s what it’s all about for us,” said Athens City Middle School teacher Becky Bryant. “This is well-deserved by all. A lot of hard work has gone into this and being recognized in this way for our efforts is very much appreciated.”

“Even if we weren’t getting a bonus,” noted City Park School teacher Kendra Johnson, “we’d all be doing the same job we’re doing now. It’s all about the kids for us.”

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