Janesville School Board changes pay system it says it never liked in the first place

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Catherine W. Idzerda
Wednesday, August 9, 2017

JANESVILLEIt appears Janesville School Board members didn't think linking teacher raises to a state-mandated teacher effectiveness program was a good idea after all.

The school board Tuesday agreed with Superintendent Steve Pophal that the current pay system is burdensome and squashes innovation and voted to do away with it.

The vote was 8 to 0, with Michelle Haworth absent.

Teachers still will have to participate in the mandated teacher effectiveness program, but it no longer will be tied to raises.

The school district hasn’t determined what the new process to earn raises will involve. In upcoming months, a group of administrators, teachers and others will create a new pay schedule, Pophal told the board.

This will be the third change in the way teachers are paid since Act 10 was passed in 2011.

Under the terms of Act 10, the state law that stripped public unions of most of their bargaining rights, unions can negotiate only for raises up to the amount of the consumer price index.

In December, teachers received raises of 0.12 percent for the 2016-17 school year.

In addition to that, the district instituted a “pay-for-performance” policy that allows teachers to qualify for additional raises. At first, the system required teachers to get a rating of “effective” in five of six categories, including professional knowledge, instructional planning, instructional delivery, assessment for and of learning, learning environment and professionalism.

In the first year of the system, nearly 99 percent of teachers qualified for raises.

The board then voted to lower the standards, so it was even easier to get a raise.

But the system required teachers and administrators to fill out volumes of paperwork, taking time away from their usual duties. Pophal described the paperwork burden as “onerous.”

In addition, in such a system, teachers would be unwilling to take risks or innovate, Pophal said. With their paychecks on the line, they might feel it was better to play it safe, he said.

Tuesday, it was evident that none of the school board members cared for the previous system.

Board member Greg Ardrey described it as a "mistake."

Board members Carla Quirk and Cathy Myers said they never liked it in the first place.

Quirk later added that she was glad the board could admit it was wrong.

No one spoke in favor of the system.

Pophal said the new compensation model will:

— Emphasize teacher growth and development.

— Encourage ongoing professional development.

— Make sure teacher learning translates into improved classroom practices.

— Position the district to attract and retain quality teachers while remaining economically healthy given the current state funding system.

Pophal said he hopes a new system will be in place by the middle of the coming school year.

He noted that two-thirds of teachers already have received raises under the pay-for-performance system. The remaining third will be given raises this year.

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