Leadership premiums: a case study from Troy

On Thursday, I wrote about Idaho’s teacher “leadership premiums” — and some of the problematic ways schools have distributed their share of the money.

Latah County’s Troy School District was a case study in Thursday’s story, for two reasons.

First, Troy’s smallest leadership premium for 2015-16 came in at $213, and at the time, state law established a minimum premium of $850.

Second, Troy distributed its 2015-16 leadership premium money to each of its 23 teachers, even though the premiums are designed to reward select teachers who take on leadership roles.

Troy district Superintendent Christy Castro didn’t get back to me in time for Thursday’s story, but she got in touch Friday. Her answers shed a little bit more light on the confusion surrounding the premiums.

Castro says the 2015-16 state leadership premium report is accurate, and she says Troy awarded premiums as low as $213. She said the district carved up the money based on job status, providing partial stipends to part-time employees. She said that was the district’s understanding of how the premium dollars should be divided.

There seems to have been considerable misunderstanding on this score. In 2016, the Legislature tweaked the law to increase the minimum premium to $900 — and the law sets the same minimum for full- and part-time employees alike. But this wording wasn’t in place for the 2015-16 school year.

Castro makes no apologies for giving every teacher a share of the bonus money. She says every one of her teachers met the requirements for a leadership premium — and contributed to Troy’s marked improvements on the 2016 Idaho Standards Achievement Test.

“In order to accomplish such a task, it took everyone to work additional hours and take on new roles, so we felt fortunate to have the leadership premiums to assist in this accomplishment,” Castro said Friday.

I suspect we haven’t heard the last of the debate over leadership premiums.

In 2017-18, the state will put $17.4 million into this program — with the idea of rewarding teachers who seek out and take on added responsibilities. That’s certainly enough money to capture the attention of lawmakers. And the Legislature has made its beliefs clear: Rewarding leadership and across-the-board bonuses are mutually exclusive management objectives.

Castro would beg to differ.