School District to implement lead teacher program in southern schools

A new program will recruit experienced teachers to teach in the southern schools of the San Juan School District. The program was approved at meeting of the San Juan School Board on March 28.
The Quality Teaching Incentive Program (Q-TIP) is designed to attract a core of experienced “lead” teachers in the schools.
The goal is to increase the level of experienced teachers in schools that have traditionally suffered from high teacher turnover.
The Q-TIP program is focused on the six schools in the southern portion of the district, including Bluff, Montezuma Creek and Tse’bii’nidzisgai elementary schools, and Whitehorse, Monument Valley and Navajo Mountain high schools.
Turnover is an ongoing problem in the southern schools.
In the three northern elementary schools (La Sal, Monticello and Blanding), 46 percent of the teachers have at least 14 years of teaching experience.
In contrast, just nine percent of teachers in the southern elementary schools have at least 14 years of teaching experience.
The school board approved 21 Q-TIP positions. The program will provide a supplement of $12,000 per year for the Q-TIP lead teachers.
The elementary school Q-TIP positions will be distributed across the school according to the needs of the school.
The high school positions will be focused on the core teaching areas, with a lead teacher in English, math and science.
In addition, new teachers moving into the district will be placed on the wage scale with all previous teaching experience. At the current time, teachers transferring from other areas are credited with a maximum of ten years experience, regardless of the amount of teaching experience they have.
“Simply put, the school district will recruit and retain experienced and successful teachers, with a high skill set, to come and teach in our needy schools,” said Ron Nielson, the elementary school supervisor for the sprawling district.
Officials note that it may take several years to implement all of the Q-TIP positions. “These are not new positions,” said Nielson. “They will fill existing positions as the lead teacher positions become available.”
The estimated cost of the new program is $332,640 per year, in addition to the unknown cost of honoring the prior teaching experience for the new teachers from out of the district.
A million dollar grant proposal from the American Indian Education bill will provide a significant portion of the funding for the program.
Funding for the bill was approved in the most recent Utah State Legislative session. The funds will be distributed $250,000 a year over a four-year period.
Teachers in the new Q-TIP positions will have a higher degree of responsibility in the school and community.
“This will include increased responsibility in leadership, mentoring, professional development, and school leadership committees,” said Nielson.
Nielson adds that the impact of the lead teachers will be felt far beyond the walls of their particular classrooms. “This can help the entire school with a better support system, from the entry level teachers to the principal.”
The new program will implement the lessons learned from a lead teacher program that has been running at Montezuma Creek Elementary School for the past four years.
“We learned a lot at Montezuma Creek,” said Nielson. “The lead teacher program has been very successful and Montezuma Creek Elementary School is no longer a turnaround school.”
Nielson said that the prior experience will be helpful as the schools set qualification levels, interviews applicants, and structure the new positions.
The school board also considered a proposal that would have increased the salary of administrators in the Q-TIP schools, but decided to focus on the teachers only.
District officials believe that the recruitment and retention of high quality teachers will be a key to increase the success of the southern schools. While the district is pleased with the quality of the entry-level teachers they are recruiting, a large portion of these teachers do not stay for many years.
“Teachers leave for many reasons,” said Nielson. “Many of them want to own their own home, be closer to family and live in a less remote location.
“In the past, the lack of medical care was a big problem, but that has improved dramatically in recent years.”
In other cases, the teachers develop great teaching skills at these schools and are recruited away once they gain experience. Q-TIP is designed to help identify and retain these teachers and possibly recruit some high quality teachers from other areas.
Nielson said that the qualification standards will be high for the Q-TIP teachers. Applicants must be experienced Level II teachers, with multiple years of successful teaching experience. The district plans a rigorous screening process for the Q-TIP applicants.
The San Juan School District operates twelve schools, including six elementary schools and six secondary schools.

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