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Administrator pay at Gateway School District likely to be based on test scores

| Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Administrators' salaries would be tied to test scores in the Gateway School District this year under a contract proposal, a move that leaders hope will both keep employees from leaving and boost academic performance.

The school board this week approved a broad new performance-based system for the district's administrators when approving a four-year contract proposal for them. Principals also could earn a bonus — in additional to salary increases — if academic goals are exceeded.

“It helps us retain good administrators while also providing them the incentive to do well,” said school director Chad Stubenbort, who represented the board in negotiations with administrators.

Administrators are expected to vote on the contract proposal within the next two weeks, Stubenbort said.

Administration representative Rocco Telli, Gateway Middle School principal, said Monday he could not comment until given permission from district spokeswoman Cara Zanella. Zanella could not be reached for comment.

The contract proposal calls for a 1.5-percent raise for building principals and assistant principals each of the next four years, unless Superintendent Nina Zetty deems their performance unsatisfactory during an annual evaluation.

If principals and assistant principals are deemed “distinguished,” they would receive a 3-percent raise. An additional evaluation system would be put in place only for principals, according to the contract proposal.

Zetty will create specific goals related to Keystone Exam scores and overall student academic achievement for each principal, depending on the demographics and testing history of the building, Stubenbort said.

If individual, building and districtwide goals set at the start of the school year are exceeded, principals could receive a $5,000 bonus in addition to the salary increase. The goals include efforts to improve scores on the Keystone Exams, the state-mandated test required to assess student proficiency.

Student test scores accounted for 30 percent of a teacher's evaluation score in 2013, under state rules that took effect last year.

Gateway High School, Gateway Middle School and Cleveland Steward Elementary failed to meet what the state Department of Education deems annual yearly progress in the 2012-13 school year.

The incentive-based pay could help administrators reach the average salaries in Allegheny County, Stubenbort said. The district has recruited administrators well but has not paid them well enough to keep them in the district, he said.

For example, the former Gateway Middle School principal and Ramsey Elementary School principal left for higher-paying positions in other districts at the end of the last school year, Stubenbort said.

Gateway elementary principals last year were paid an average of $98,000, the Gateway Middle School principal was paid $102,000, and the Gateway High School principal was paid $115,000, according to district records.

A recently approved contract for Plum School District principals will pay elementary principals an average of about $91,000. The middle school principal will be paid about $109,000 and the high school principal will make about $108,000.

The previous contract with Gateway administrators expired in 2012, which resulted in a pay freeze for building principals and assistant principals for the past two school years.

The move comes as schools statewide are adopting a similar approach, according to the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.

Locally, the Plum School District last year implemented a similar system of incentive-based pay for its administrators. A total of 36 possible points on a 100-point evaluation scale are related to student performance.

Kyle Lawson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at klawson@tribweb.com.

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