published Friday, February 11th, 2011

School bonuses voted down

by Kelli Gauthier

A divided school board voted 5-4 Thursday night to withhold proposed one-time cash bonuses for all employees.

The Hamilton County Board of Education several times had publicly discussed the $400 and $500 bonuses to be paid for mostly with excess federal grant money, as well as some of the school system's general purpose funds.

Most recently the board held a work session last month, where several members said they would prefer the money be spent to extend the life of some grant-funded school-based jobs that otherwise would go away at the end of the school year.

Joe Galloway, who last month said he had been convinced to vote for the bonus, cast his vote against the motion Thursday.

There was an audible gasp in the board room from teachers present when he voted against the bonus.

Galloway said he had talked to teachers in his district, many of whom contacted him, and more than 60 percent of them favored not getting the bonus and allowing the grant-funded positions to be continued.

"If we lose those positions, we don't get them back," he said. "I'm for teachers and I hate to not be able to do something for them."

After the vote, Superintendent Jim Scales, who originally brought the proposal to the board last December, said he was discouraged.

"I'm really saddened and disappointed that we did not see fit to provide a small token to our staff," he said. "But we recognize the authority of the board ... and we're moving forward."

Marilyn Spickard, a teacher at Soddy-Daisy Middle School, attended Thursday's meeting and said she was "extremely disappointed" in the board's decision.

"What does it take to recognize what teachers do in Hamilton County? ... We've got teachers who qualify for food stamps," she said.

about Kelli Gauthier...

Kelli Gauthier covers K-12 education in Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She started at the paper as an intern in 2006, crisscrossing the region writing feature stories from Pikeville, Tenn., to Lafayette, Ga. She also covered crime and courts before taking over the education beat in 2007. A native of Frederick, Md., Kelli came south to attend Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in print journalism. Before newspapers, ...

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My2centsworth said...

I am all for good teachers being paid their worth and then some. BUT if I am right - was not this money from a Federal Jobs Assistance package? To that end - it is to be used (as Mr. Galloway says) for Grant Funded Positions. If the Board was to give this money out as Bonuses then the Grant Funded Positions would be dismissed and those people would be JOBLESS. Is that what is wanted in these times? At least this Board has shown more responsibility than Littlefield has shown. Thank you.

I would be more than happy to assist in easing the teachers burden some. Although I am not a teacher I am sure there are some things that I could do to help. I am also sure there are others that would be more than happy to also assist.

February 11, 2011 at 12:16 p.m.
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