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Plan rewards top students' teachers

Published August 23, 2006

TAMPA - The top quarter of Hillsborough's teachers could earn cash rewards this school year.

Five percent bonuses are in the offing for teachers whose students do well. The determination would be based largely on standardized tests under a plan the Hillsborough School Board approved Tuesday night.

If the state agrees, the average bonuses would be in the ballpark of $1,800, said Connie Gilbert, who oversees employee benefits for the school district. Experienced teachers could earn double that amount, because Hillsborough would continue a similar program already in place that rewards teacher performance.

"This is huge," said superintendent MaryEllen Elia. "We can provide opportunities to our teachers who are really outperforming."

But not all district employees are celebrating the opportunity to earn bigger paychecks. The union representing bus drivers, school custodians and other blue-collar workers waved yellow signs outside the School Board meeting to protest their proposed pay.

Negotiations between the district and the Hillsborough School Employees Federation currently are at an impasse. The union wants a 10 percent pay increase, mirroring the raise for teachers this year. The school district has offered 5 percent.

"We want fair money," said union president Luis Perez, noting that 5 percent on a school custodian's salary could amount to less than 50 cents an hour. "We pay rent at the same place they pay rent. We buy our gas at the same place they buy their gas."

Tuesday night, the School Board also approved 5 percent raises for administrators and teacher aides and gave raises to substitute teachers.

The board voted for the new program for teacher bonuses, although details aren't ironed out.

First, the state has to approve Hillsborough's plan. The Legislature has set aside $148-million to recognize top-performing teachers across Florida. Hillsborough anticipates receiving $10.8-million under the program, called Special Teachers Are Rewarded.

It believes it is among the first to send a proposal to the state, which could serve as a model for others.

In other business, the board named a new principal for Leto High. David Brown, currently the assistant principal, moves into the top job.

Letitia Stein can be reached at or 226-3400.

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