Saavedra says the idea of teacher bonuses seems to be a lonely one, but is an incentive that he'd like to expand with $3,000 bonuses for the district's best teachers next year and up to $10,000 bonuses within five years. "There's been different pilots throughout various parts of the country, but nobody has really stuck to it. I really think that if you stick to it, if you have it well-designed, you reward the best, I think the district will start to attract some of the best from other districts as well, because the only way you get high pay in this district is if you're succeeding with kids," he says.
Bonus pay is currently based on campus performance, but under Saavedra's plan, would be based mostly in individual teacher performance. Teacher's would be evaluated on their specific success rate based on test scores and other variables. Third grade teacher Marilyn Manjang says the thought of higher bonuses is an added incentive to do well in the classroom. "Many days you say, okay, we're not getting enough pay, but that is a nice incentive to make me want to stay in the field. I've been in the field for 17 years. I do it because I love it, not because of the pay. I love what I do and I get rewards everyday. So to have this extra bonus, yes, I want to continue what I'm doing," she says.
The Houston School Board will have to approve Saavedra's bonus plan, but board member Karla Cisneros says it makes sense for the district to do what it can to reward good teachers who often aren't paid what they're worth. "As an important step, we think that we absolutely do need to be paying extra money to our very best teachers. We're working to bring more money to teachers and this in an important part of that whole formula," she says.
HISD has almost 209,000 students and close to 13,000 teachers. Only teachers and administrators from Exemplary or Recognized schools were given the bonuses this year.