Rhea County plans for teacher pay, school needs

Rhea County plans for teacher pay, school needs

June 23rd, 2013 by Kimberly McMillian in Local Regional News

Jerry Levengood, the director of schools in Rhea County, Tenn.

DAYTON, Tenn. - Rhea County school officials held a Saturday workshop to review immediate needs for 2013-14 and goals for everything from teacher pay scales to curriculum.

"We have the autonomy to set our own pay scales" for the 2014-15 year, said Director of Schools Jerry Levengood. On Friday, the State Board of Education adopted a new minimum salary schedule and voted to allow differential pay scales, which means school districts can pay teachers extra based on local needs, such as hard-to-fill subjects or low-performing schools.

"We need to be able to compensate the very best teachers we've got [and] reward great teachers," Levengood said.

The Rhea County system has about 340 teachers, officials said.

At a board workshop earlier this month, board member John Mincy said, "Teachers will get a bonus," not a raise, this year.

On Saturday, some board members said they'd heard grumbling in the community that the new high school under construction was taking money from teachers.

Levengood said that's not true, that teacher pay is unrelated to construction costs.

Board member Bimbo McCawley said the county needed a new high school to accommodate student enrollment.

Member Dale Harris added, "We were very frugal."

Jamie Spencer, with school construction manager Hewlett Spencer LLC, told Rhea County commissioners recently that $23 million has been spent of the $30 million budgeted for the school.

"We're accountable," Spencer said.

Levengood also told school board members that schools officials are using a database of student results to identify strengths and weaknesses. He said officials first used the information collected by a data specialist at the start of last year's school term, but expect to have a better assessment of achievement once test scores are tallied this year.

Additional goals for the 2013-14 year include the grand opening of the high school and Rhea Middle School in early August and adjusting curriculum emphasis across the county, whether math in higher grades or reading and English in the elementary and middle schools.

Kimberly McMillian is based in Rhea County. Contact her at kdj424@bellsouth.net.