One day in the near future, Cheryl Nobles could be on a cruise to the Bahamas thanks to some unexpected bonus pay.
Last month, a little more than $700,000 was spread among 172 educators in the Bibb County school district as a one-time merit pay award from the Race to the Top federal grant program.
Peach and Bibb were two Middle Georgia school districts that participated in the program.
Five percent of the federal funds were set aside specifically for the top performing educators, but many teachers -- such as Nobles, a Rutland Middle School teacher -- had no idea the bonuses were coming.
“I was very surprised,” said Connie McCain, another Rutland teacher. “In fact, I didn’t even check my email this summer because I didn’t think I was going to get it.”
The top 10 percent of teachers and school leaders in Race to the Top districts was based on calculations by the Teacher and Leader Effectiveness Measure, and each one received an award of about $4,000.
The bonuses were based on two measures -- observations by supervisors during the last school year and student performance on tests the prior year. The state agreed to devise a merit-based pay system and to develop a way to measure improvement on tests when it accepted the federal funding. The program was first announced in 2009.
Educators at Rutland were humble, but also proud of their school.
“It feels validating that you’re doing the job that you’re hired to do,” Rutland Principal Richard Key said. “When you have high expectations of learning and that’s pervasive across your building, you start seeing things like lots of teachers getting bonus checks and being recognized as the top 10 percent across the district.”
Key said it was more than just meetings, professional learning development or analyzing school data that lead to Rutland’s success. It was effectively communicating the expectations to staff, he said, and then teachers exceeding those expectations.
Key and Assistant Principal Carmalita Dillard were also among the bonus recipients.
Many educators who received the bonus even recycled some of the money back into education -- from treating teachers to a free breakfast to spending it on their students or their own children’s back-to-school supplies.
Mark Tallant, Rutland’s athletic director, said the extra money was a “blessing” and came at just the right time, when his daughter needed wisdom teeth removed and a back-to-school wardrobe.
Dillard plans to use some of her bonus on college visitations for her son, who is a senior this year.
Key said he and his wife might take a vacation.
“We make take a little excursion,” he said. “I’m waiting for my wife to tell me where she wants to go.”
To contact writer David Schick, call 744-4382 or find him on Twitternote>