I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

PNJ on Merit Pay

I’m glad that the PNJ decided to do an additional piece on the Escambia County Merit Award Program—it covered the plan in a little more depth. Here’s the article

But why the negative, condescending title?

“Money Over Merit?—Controversial Teacher Bonus Program Has Some Faculty Crying Foul”

Why not-- “Money For Merit—Bonus Plan Has Supporters and Detractors”

The answer, it is much more interesting and salacious to create a sense of hostility.
The piece, disguised as an attempt to be balanced, was really quite negative, with much more commentary from those opposed than those in favor. Why not just do an editorial denouncing merit pay, PNJ?

The PNJ also requested detailed lists (of teachers who received the bonuses and those who voluntarily opted out) from the district via public records requests, to plaster these lists all over the internet by way of this article. The placement of this information on line will possibly create some resentment between teachers who earned the award and those who did not. Why do this? I could have requested the identical list and published it, but I know that to do that would be counterproductive. The PNJ probably knows this as well, but it seems that conflict and tension make for good material for the PNJ.

Some other details that keep being left out of these PNJ pieces on Merit Pay:

1. Nationally, both McCain and Obama support Merit pay
2. The number of teachers that opted out, as a percentage of the total number of teachers in the county, was small (17%) and a majority of those that opted out are union members.
3. The majority of teachers in our county are not union members. Yet, the PNJ always goes to Gail Husbands (EEA director) for the teachers’ perspective. Here is a newsflash—maybe a majority of the teachers in this county don’t share the same views that she has. She is a fine teacher and a nice person, but her opinions do not always translate automatically to a consensus majority opinion.

And I don’t even want to talk about the majority of the posters to this PNJ story, other than to say thank God “mytoocentsworth” is in there to keep the other posters in check with intelligence and facts to counteract the loads of garbage that’s being posted.

Here’s what is really important.

1. Merit Pay Plans are not perfect, but ours is pretty good.
2. Next year, we will be awarding Merit Pay just like this year, and I predict that fewer employees will “opt out” and also I predict that the scores for those teachers that are rewarded will increase—meaning those rewarded next year will have to do more and work harder to get the bonus again.
3. If more teachers are working harder to achieve these rewards, the students will benefit district wide.
4. Merit Pay is a good thing, and as long as I am on the board I’ll continue to advocate for this plan.

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