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Christmas comes early for teachers

December 11, 2001|By KELLY GRANT, Staff Writer

The state Academic Performance Index, a source of stress for many educators, brought a welcome Christmas bonus for the certificated staff at five local schools.

Certificated staff at schools whose students made large growth on the 2000 API and met other criteria received the certificated staff performance incentive award Monday, cash awards for each staff member to do with as he or she pleases.

Imperial's Frank Wright Intermediate School was one of the top winners in the state. Its certificated staff each received $25,000 (before taxes). The school's eight-point growth target was exceeded by 72 points on the 2000 API.

The certificated staff at El Centro's Harding Elementary School each received $10,000. Students raised their 2000 scores 103 points, beating their 14-point growth target.


Staff at El Centro's Kennedy Middle School and McKinley Elementary School and Calexico's William Moreno Junior High School received $5,000 apiece.

Kennedy went beyond its 15-point growth target and had a 51-point increase. McKinley students beat their 14-point target with a 94-point increase. William Moreno improved 60 points, 43 more than its target of 17.

Frank Wright seventh- and eighth-grade science teacher Ian Hunter was beaming when Principal Charles Bush handed him his check Monday afternoon.

The award's recognition and monetary value make the hard work he and other staff members did preparing students for the API seem even more worthwhile, Hunter said.

"It (the API) has changed the focus in our teaching," Hunter said. "We feel it (the pressure) more than our students."

The credit also goes to the kids.

"It was their effort and work" that raised scores so much on the 2000 API, Hunter said.

Frank Wright pre-algebra teacher Tom Ralls agrees.

Then-principal John Marshall challenged and encouraged the school to raise its API scores, Ralls said.

"By golly, they did it," he added.

Ralls said he never thought about the financial award while teaching. While he was happy to receive his check, Ralls didn't forget the larger picture.

"I don't teach for the money," he said. "The rewards aren't financial."

The school is planning to give those students from the 1999-2000 school year, now high school freshmen and sophomores, "something special" to reward them, too, said Bush.

With his award money, Hunter said he plans to pay some bills and, just in time for Christmas, buy some extra presents for his sons.

William Moreno Junior High Assistant Principal Trini Acosta said she's putting her check toward the purchase of a new car.

Besides the material value, Acosta said the awards are "definitely encouraging" to the staff at William Moreno.

"We're working doubly hard," she said.

To show their appreciation, the certificated staff winners are planning to donate part of their money to throw a party for the school's classified staff, Acosta said.

Classified staff were not included in this award.

Harding Principal Juan Cruz, who was not at Harding during the 1999-2000 school year and therefore ineligible for the award, joked with his staff.

"I gave them my Christmas wish-list already," he laughed.

All kidding aside, he said the certificated staff feel "they're being recognized."

Schools receiving the certificated staff performance incentive awards had to show growth on the SAT 9 from the 1998-99 school year. They also had to at least double their growth target on the 1999-00 API and all subgroups had to make 80 percent of the school target. Kindergarten through eighth-grade schools had to have at least 95 percent of students take the test. High schools were required to have 90 percent of students tested.

Schools with the biggest gains received the most money based on growth.

Of the $100 million appropriated by the state for this incentive program, 1,000 certified staff in schools with the largest growth get $25,000 each, 3,750 certified staff get $10,000 each and 7,500 certified staff get $5,000 each.

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>> Staff Writer Kelly Grant can be reached at 337-3441.

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