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Governor pitches teacher performance plan again

Gov. Sonny Perdue gave his State of the State address on Wednesday, Jan. 13, and revealed his budget recommendations two days later. Local school systems were hit hard in both.

In his address, the governor spoke about a pay-for-performance system for teachers. To be implemented in 2014, "the compensation model will award salary bonuses based on classroom observation and student growth, enabling effective teachers to be eligible for much higher salaries much earlier in their careers," revealed an announcement from the governor's office. The announcement, nor the governor's speech, revealed any details of the plan.

McDuffie County School Superintendent Jim LeBrun said the governor's pay-for-performance plan is not new.

"It's been discussed a lot for the past 20-30 years, and there's a lot of reasons why it's not in place," he said.

Mr. LeBrun said teachers are in the "human business, not the business of widgets," and they shape individuals. He added that most teachers have the same skills and the same ethics, they all use the same curriculum, but their students in the classroom can have extreme variables.

"Does the student live with both parents, one parent, grandparents or no parents? Do they have a stable environment to go home to? Do they have a computer in their home, or other resources? You have to look at all those when you are considering a teacher's performance," he said, adding that school leadership also influences a teacher.

Because the public school system offers the same educational opportunities to all children, schools cannot control what students come to them.

"We are not a factory, we cannot send them back if they're not perfect," Mr. LeBrun said.

Another aspect of the plan that concerns Mr. LeBrun is that the teacher's evaluation is not only based on student performance, but on the evaluation of supervisors.

"Teachers will no longer work as a team, but will be competitors with each other," he said. "Teachers are our greatest asset. By all means, I want to pursue excellence, but we don't need to destroy what's good. If we have them competing against each other, the children will suffer."

In the proposed budget, state employees and teachers will be forced to take another three days' without pay and education systems also will bear a 3 percent cut in their revenue.

McDuffie County Schools Comptroller Tom Smalley said the county anticipated the furloughs at the beginning of the year, and had already scheduled the days into the year-long schedule.

"So, we are in line with that requirement," he said.

Mr. Smalley said he is working now to "crunch some numbers" to find where he can cut 3 percent more from the budget. Three percent of McDuffie County's Quality Based Education allotment totals between $500,000 and $600,000, Mr. Smalley said.

"I don't know where we'll find it, but we did anticipate it, so it's no big surprise to us," he said.

Web posted on Thursday, January 21, 2010

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