2018-07-19 / Front Page

Glen Lake complies; rare feat

One of two in region
By Amy Hubbell
Of The Enterprise staff

Glen Lake Community Schools is one of only two public school districts in the region to comply with a state law requiring merit pay for teachers and administrators.

Glen Lake has adopted a policy to reward staff for student achievement and those dedicated to professional development, superintendent Sander Scott confirmed.

It is one of two districts in the Grand Traverse region to have a policy on the books, according to the results of a statewide Freedom of Information Act request made by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

In 2010, former Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed a law that required school districts to give successful teachers bonuses or merit pay. The move was in response to the federal government’s “Race to the Top” program, which gave grants on similar legislation.

Specifically, the law states that public schools must “implement and maintain a method of compensation for its teachers and school administrators that includes job performance and job accomplishments as a significant factor in determining compensation and additional compensation.”

“It was supposed to have been done a long time ago,” Glen Lake Superintendent Sander Scott said.

Districts failing to comply with the law are subject to a 5 percent cut in state funding— including, according to Scott, the per pupil foundation allowance on which two county school districts rely.

The deadline to have the policy in place is long gone. And Gov. Rick Snyder has called the provision to withhold 5 percent of state aid as a penalty “unenforceable.”

Regardless, two of four public school districts within the county would be basically unaffected.

Glen Lake and Northport are “out-of-formula” districts, meaning that property values in the districts generate more tax revenue than what they would receive in the per pupil foundation allowance.

They would be less impacted than Leland and Suttons Bay Public School in that those districts’ budgets are based primarily on per pupil foundation allowance.

Leland’s 2018-19 budget, adopted in late July, per year and totals $4.7 million. Perpupil grants representing 75 percent of the district’s revenue for the school year that began July 1.

Both Northport and Leland responded to the Freedom of Information Act request from the Mackinac Center, which sent requests to all public school districts in the state.

Neither have merit pay policies on the books.

“Merit pay is tricky because it is mandated by the state, but also a prohibited subject of bargaining,” Northport Superintendent Neil Wetherbee said. “I know it is a topic that the last two administrations at Northport have wrestled with.”

Wetherbee acknowledged the penalty for his district would be less than others.

“Being out-of-formula, the state aid penalty is far less significant than our desire to fully comply with the law,” Wetherbee said.

Leland Superintendent Jason Stowe said plans to adopt a merit pay policy will be discussed in the future.

“We have one more year on the LEA (Leland Education Association) contract and when that expires we will be working on merit pay,” he said.

Meanwhile, according to the Mackinac Center, Suttons Bay has yet to reply to its FOIA request.

Suttons Bay Superintendent Mike Carmean said he hasn’t seen the survey. He took over in August 2017 after the departure of former superintendent Chris Nelson.

He believes merit pay is included in the current teacher contract, ratified in June.

“Our teachers need to receive either a minimal effective, effective or highly effective evaluation rating for the 2018- 2019 school year to receive a raise for the following school year,” Carmean said. “In year two of the contract and beyond, an effective or highly effective rating is necessary.”

Suttons Bay’s 2018-19 budget is based on a per pupil foundation allowance of $7,871, which will generate $4.6 million in revenue.

Suttons Bay’s total budget for the current school year, adopted in late June, is $6.9 million.

Glen Lake’s policy, which was developed with input by board members and teachers, provides incentives for teamwork and teachers to improve their craft.

The district’s previous schedule included percent increases through the unionized Glen Lake Federation of Teachers (GLFT) contract.

A step system remains in place to provide raises based on the number of years work and education level.

However, to advance, teachers must earn an average rating of “effective” or “highly effective” over a three-year period.

Additional stipends of $500, $1,000 and $2,500 are available to the entire staff based on the average Michigan Department of Education index scores as well as earning certain certifications.

School administrators will receive a 1 percent increase by achieving a “highly effective” rating on their annual evaluation.

GLFT members and the district are negotiating a contract to replace the previous agreement that expired June 30.

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