HISD Approves Use of Recruiting Bonuses

Although opposed by the teachers' union, the HISD Board approved a plan to use hefty bonuses to recruit new teachers. Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports.

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Some teachers can expect to be wooed by signing bonuses of up to $6,000 from HISD. The Board approved the measure, which the district says will help attract the best and brightest people coming out of college. Superintendent Abe Saavedra says this gives the district a recruiting edge.

"You know, young people that are graduating from college, you know they're looking at their different options. Especially if they have majors in science, math, bilingual education and so forth. They have options, they have choices, you know and we want to attract them and frankly we want to attract a lot of applicants, you know the bigger the pool for selection the better the odds that we'll continue to select high quality teachers."

Middle and high school math and science teachers and bilingual teachers will receive $4,000 when they sign and another $2,000 upon completion of a two year contract. Core subject teachers are eligible for $3,000 signing bonuses. Several members of the Houston Federation of Teachers turned out at the board meeting to express their concerns over the plan. Union member Linda Murray says she understands the board is looking for ways to attract the best talent, but she thinks this will lead to poor teacher retention in the long run.

"What results when you have the sign on bonuses that I have seen in my years as a steward is that the minute the sign on bonus money -- they have fulfilled the requirement of those two years, that person is gone. And I think that you could spend the money better elsewhere."

The Board unanimously approved the plan, but several members echoed the concerns and questions raised about teacher retention. Board member Diana Davila told the superintendent she wanted to hear more about long term solutions to teacher turn-over.

"This is an attracter feature, I think, because with our college students graduating with a huge debt behind them just to get that four-year degree, or six-year or five-year -- however long it took them to get it -- this is going to be something that's going to attract some of these teachers to come to our district. But we have to make sure that we're able to retain them at the same time and it's not a revolving door system."

District officials told the board they are working to address the problem. Saavedra says they're looking into developing differentiated pay systems. He says they don't have difficulty filling teacher slots, they have difficulty filling certain teacher slots and so they need to look a different compensation system in those areas that are hard to fill. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.

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