MARIETTA — Four Ford Elementary School teachers who attended a Monday meeting about the Cobb School District potentially shifting to a performance-based pay system said they and their colleagues oppose such a change.
Board Chairman Randy Scamihorn and members David Morgan and Tim Stultz met Monday night in front of a crowd of about 20 people to discuss an alternative way to pay educators that could be based on student performance and teacher evaluations rather than experience or degrees.
The subcommittee was formed in May at the request of Morgan to examine the topic.
“If there is a better way to pay teachers more, then let’s do it,” Morgan said. “It’s not a witch-hunt. … I do believe there’s a better way to do it than we’re doing it right now, especially for the teachers in Cobb County.”
The current pay scale is based on experience, certification and degree level of teachers. Almost 90 percent, or $770.9 million of the fiscal 2014 budget, goes to salary and benefits for teachers.
The average Cobb public school teacher makes $75,000 annually, including benefits, and an average of $56,000, without benefits, said Brad Johnson, the district’s chief financial officer.
The subcommittee on Monday night spent most of their meeting in a teleconference with James Wyckoff, director of the Center on Education Policy and Workforce Competitiveness at the University of Virginia, talking about various pay systems.
Afterward, Scamihorn, Stultz and Morgan participated in a 15-minute question and answer session with the audience, including four Ford Elementary School teachers who submitted a list of 10 questions to the board members and asked that they respond to them by email.
The Acworth-based school teachers said they are worried that the new pay system could be approved without their input.
“As veteran teachers, we are opposed to it because we have been getting paid for our number of years and our degrees and we are just unsure how that’s going to balance out,” said one teacher who declined to give her name.
The group also pointed out that in a public school system like Cobb teachers have high and low performing students in their classes so basing teacher performance on test scores would be unjust. Another teacher, who also declined to give her name, said Cobb needs to take its time if it does decide to implement the new system.
“Cobb County seems to jump into new things quickly a lot and there have been a lot of changes the last five to 10 years,” she said. “We don’t stick with the curriculum, we don’t stick with a calendar.”
Cobb, like every other school district in Georgia, began implementing Common Core Standards last school year in math classes. Two years ago, the school board also changed the calendar a few months prior to the start of the 2011-12 school year, upsetting many parents and teachers.
“With all the changes they seem to just jump into it before it’s researched and thoroughly thought through,” she said.
Morgan, Scamihorn and Stultz said there is no timeline to implementing the new salary system and that their monthly meetings will continue to be “fact-finding” sessions. The next meeting has not been scheduled.
“It would be unrealistic to pre-diagnosticate when we would implement this,” Morgan said.