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School chiefs should embrace merit raises

July 26, 2002|by BOB MAGINNIS

Last week the members of the Washington County Board of Education approved raises for administrators and supervisors that would give all the 140 members of that group step raises of 1.5 percent of 3 percent, depending on how much they make now.

This week Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said future raises for he and other top school officials should depend on meeting certain goals. It's a good idea and as soon as the School Board can decide on the appropriate goals, it should implement it.

The system as it exists never made sense, because as any parent can tell you, there are principals who lead their schools and others whose schools succeed in spite of them. Giving those administrators targets to hit will make them more accountable, or provide the basis for moving them out of the system.

We agree with Morgan that the measures used should be objective, but improved test scores shouldn't be the only criteria, or schools will become test-taking academies as opposed to educational institutions.

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Goal-setters should also look at a particular school's population before the benchmarks are set. A school where more than half the students are eligible for free- and reduced-price lunches - a generally accepted measure of poverty - shouldn't be expected to improve as quickly as schools where more families are affluent.

In those less-affluent schools, we suggest principals be given points for increasing parental involvement and at every school, for signing up local businesses as partners.

For those administrators whose jobs don't involve oversight into classroom instruction, the process might be more involved. If cutting costs were the only measure, we might see a return to the penny-wise philosophy of some years ago, when the school system dispensed with its roofing crew, only to see major leaks damage some schools.

The School Board and its administrators will haves some disagreements over the details, no doubt, but the concept is sound. Let the rewards go to those who achieve instead of just to those who endure.

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