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School system delivers on AYP-bonus promise

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

A financial bonus for employees of schools which make Adequate Yearly Progress was one of the first things Interim Superintendent Gloria Duncan promised when she took over the Clayton County school system in July.

The Board of Education agreed with the idea, and approved Duncan's recommendation at its August meeting. The 3,400 employees of the 40 Clayton County schools which made AYP for the 2006-2007 school year, will receive their $250 bonuses on Friday. These employees, who still work for the school system, include the teachers, cafeteria employees, administrators, staff, janitors and bus drivers.

It will cost the school system more than $880,000 to provide the bonuses to these employees.

"The one-time bonus, which will be made available to eligible employees by check on Friday, Nov. 16, was intended to reward district employees for doing what was necessary to help students to achieve academically," said system spokesman Charles White on Tuesday, in a statement.

Marcy Perry, the principal at Lee Street Elementary School in Jonesboro, said it helps when an employee, such as a teacher, is recognized for the work he or she does. Perry said teaching, in particular, can feel like a year-round job, even though teachers are only employed during the school year.

She also said some teachers come in after the Fourth of July, and begin getting their rooms ready for the next school year, or come in during holidays to get extra work done.

"There isn't a job in a school that deals with children, which isn't extremely important," Perry said. "Everybody is putting in an extraordinary amount of effort to help the students of Clayton County succeed academically," she added.

Teachers at Lee Street echoed Perry's sentiments, but also said it is important to remember the children play a significant part in achieving AYP status. A school makes AYP based on how well its students do on state tests, participation and attendance or graduation rates. "Without children, we wouldn't be here," said Princess Wooten, a kindergarten teacher at Lee Street.

Tonishia Whitlowe, a second-grade teacher at Lee Street, said it's nice to feel appreciated because teachers have to wear many hats, such as providing instruction, being counselors, attending meetings, performing everyday classroom maintenance, and caring for their students.

"We know people can't come up to us everyday and give us a pat on the back," Whitlowe said. "To have the bonuses coming from the school system, though, makes you feel like you are appreciated."

Leah Cooper, a first-grade teacher at Lee Street, said it's nice to have the bonuses, and she appreciates the school system choosing to honor their employees in this way. She would like to see the money used in other ways, though, such as putting it back into the classrooms.

"I'd appreciate it more if the money was spent on a professional development program, or on a pilot program to extend the school day, because it seems like there's never enough time in the day to get everything done," Cooper said.