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RSS Board tables lead teachers at restart school

At the Rowan-Salisbury Schools’ Board of Education meeting on Monday night, Knox Middle School Principal Michael Courtwright asked for approval of “at-risk” bonuses for all staff as well as six new positions to serve as lead teachers. 

Under Courtwright’s plan, all teachers would receive monthly stipends for a total annualized bonus of $4,000. Classified personnel would receive an annualized total of $1,000 to $2,500. 

Knox has struggled with teacher retention. Lead teachers would serve as mentors to all teachers, helping with classroom management, offering resources and guidance. Courtwright felt that providing this resource would help teachers cope with the challenges of the job. 

The school board debated the merits of the position, the morale issue with the salary being higher than other teachers’ salaries, and concerns that other schools may want to follow suit. The discussion grew heated at times.

The measure failed in a 5-3 vote. Board member Dean Hunter asked Courtwright to develop more information, including how to measure the success of the initiative, and bring it back to the board in January. 

Knox, built in 1958, is the only middle school in the city of Salisbury. It has a disproportionate number of low-income students as more middle and upper-income students in the area have headed to private or charter schools. 

Knox was designated a restart school earlier this year after test scores failed to meet state growth expectations. It’s now one of 16 restart schools in the system. Restart schools can circumvent many normal restrictions of public schools in charter-like fashion to address the specific needs of their school populations.

With more than half its schools designated as restart schools, RSS has been identified as a Renewal District, giving all of its schools the same charter-like freedom as restart schools. The district is using this year for planning before implementation in fall of 2019.  

Maggie Blackwell

Maggie Blackwell is a freelance writer and former City Councilwoman in Salisbury, North Carolina. She started writing on her Tom Thumb typewriter at age eight and now spends her retirement playing with her grandchildren.