Following the leadership premium dollars

VanBuren 1
Students in Caldwell’s Van Buren Elementary School. In Caldwell, as in other districts, teachers who work on mentoring programs or curriculum stand to share in $15.8 million in leadership premiums.

Idaho school districts define — and reward — classroom leadership differently.

In many districts, leadership means mentorship: veteran teachers helping new instructors. Or writing curriculum, as schools implement the new Idaho Core Standards. Or school-level collaboration. In other districts, leadership is tied to test scores, or working with at-risk kids or upgrading school websites to make them more useful for parents and students.

The state’s 115 school districts have $15.8 million they can award in “leadership premiums.” An early step in the path to revamping Idaho’s teacher salary system, the leadership premiums grant districts wide latitude to reward teachers who take on extra tasks, or recruit teachers who take hard-to-fill jobs.

Under House Bill 504, passed overwhelmingly by the 2014 Legislature, districts can award premiums of $850 to $5,780. There are some restrictions — the money is not meant to bankroll across-the-board raises, and it is not subject to the collective bargaining process.

Here’s a sampling of how some Idaho districts are spending their share of the money — or how they may spend it.

West Ada

The state’s largest district has its plan in place to award just over $1.55 million.

The biggest line item: $850 premiums for teachers who sit on elementary school leadership councils. Department heads will get premiums ranging from $850 to $1,700.

And a large chunk of the money will go to help retain hard-to-find special education instructors. A full-time special education instructor will be in line to receive a $1,000 premium.


The district has $1.6 million available.

Staffers from each building can apply as technological leaders or instructional leaders, and veteran teachers can receive a stipend for mentoring new teachers.

Collaboration is another part of Boise’s plan, deputy superintendent Coby Dennis said. The district would like to provide some stipends to support “professional learning communities” programs, a team-teaching approach, led by teachers, during after-school or lunch-hour sessions.


The district has its plan for awarding an anticipated $693,000 in stipends.

The largest awards will go to “elementary lead teachers.” The district is still drawing up the job description, but a “lead teacher” will work closely with the principal and would be in charge in the principal’s absence. With that comes a $2,000 premium.

Other awards will include $1,500 for school nursing, counseling and special education coordinators, and $1,000 for technology coordinators at each school. Other stipends for leadership and hard-to-find positions are yet to be determined.

The district also earmarked $407,210 for schools to award leadership premiums at their discretion. Each school received $27 per student for these premiums — so Nampa High School, with roughly 1,500 students, would receive about $40,000 for premiums.


The district’s $563,000 leadership premium plan is in place, approved by the School Board earlier this month.

The bulk of the money goes into two areas. Unit development stipends, $1,000 apiece, will go to 170 teachers who help develop district curriculum to align with the new Idaho Core Standards. Another 220 “Building Leadership Team” awards, totaling $975 apiece, will go to teacher leaders who work with building administrators on plans for school improvement and professional development.

Twin Falls

The district’s $480,000 will go into a variety of efforts.

And some of these efforts are already evident, said L.T. Erickson, the district’s director of secondary schools. The district is focused on improving scores on writing assessments and grade-level assessments, and teachers are in this summer receiving professional development in these areas.

The district is also using some leadership premium money to establish the groundwork on another initiative: grading practices. The district wants to make sure an “A” grade in one class more or less means the same as an “A” in another classroom. A focus team is beginning work on this, and will likely attend a conference on grading practices.

Premiums will also go to teachers who perform a variety of extra functions — everything from providing after-school tutoring to beefing up school websites.


The Eastern Idaho district doesn’t expect to be lacking for candidates for its $476,000 in leadership premiums. District officials estimate that 494 of their 560 certified employees meet at least one of their leadership criteria — but that doesn’t mean the money will break down that way.

Bonneville will focus on several areas, providing premiums to team leaders, department heads, teachers who help write curriculum and high school teachers who oversee senior projects. Money will also go toward building-level leadership teams, teachers who work on “response to intervention,” or RTI programs targeting at-risk students, and teaching mentors. The remaining $10,000 will go toward teachers who work in hard-to-fill positions; those haven’t yet been identified.


A district committee met before the end of the school year to start talking about how to divvy up $328,000.

So far, the committee has agreed on two broad points, Superintendent Pat Charlton said. A “good chunk” of the money will go toward the mentoring program that supports new teachers, and teachers who work on school leadership committees stand to get a share of the money.


The School Board agreed this month on a plan for $294,000 in premiums.

Money will go into several areas — including money for teachers who do mentoring, work on curriculum, work on RTI programs and leaders of history day and science fair programs. Some money is also earmarked for teachers in special education and Limited English Proficiency programs.

The plan was a cooperative effort, crafted by district administrators, teachers and Caldwell Education Association members, Superintendent Tim Rosandick said.

Blaine County

The district hasn’t decided how to distribute its $287,443.

District administrators will talk with local union representatives in August, when the school year begins, to discuss criteria, said John Blackman, the district’s assistant superintendent and human resources director.

The union’s role in the leadership premium process is limited. The premiums cannot be incorporated in a collective bargaining agreement. The district and the union settled 2014-15 contracts in May.

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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