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September 22, 2021

Summer institute teachers receive $5,000 stipends, eligible for more bonuses

SALISBURY — Rowan-Salisbury Schools leadership and more than 200 teachers gathered at Lake Junaluska from Monday to Thursday last week for a leadership institute.

The teachers were each paid a $5,000 stipend to attend the institute. The pay falls outside their normal 10-month contracts. RSS Director of Marketing and Communications Tracey Lewis said the teachers have additional work besides the institute as members of the teacher-led design teams at each school.

Principals and district leadership were not compensated in addition to their usual pay to attend the institute. The program included leadership development and work on the district’s upcoming strategic plan.

“The collaboration, calibration and alignment that will come from this rare opportunity will be a game changer for our strategic plan and launch our core work as a district,” states a memo to the Board of Education from Superintendent Tony Watlington, Chief Schools Officer Kelly Withers and Chief Human Resources Officer Jill Freeman.

The same memo describes the group of faculty who attended as some of the district’s top performers.

All faculty had to be members of their school’s design teams and apply to attend, and the teachers who attended will be considered “teacher leaders” for the year. The design teams are an important part of renewal, a special status that gives RSS freedoms normally only afforded to charter schools. The teachers will be eligible for an additional $1,300 after completing school renewal plans and creating professional development plans for their schools.

All design team members will be able to participate in a yearlong project working on improving “teacher leaders.” They can earn $200 per month for participating in that program.

The additional compensation is funded by a $26.3 million federal grant the district was awarded last year. The grant is intended to provide teacher incentives to further the district’s renewal plans by compensating staff for their work on the project, which it was unable to do before.

The leadership institute last week was mostly funded by the grant, with the exception of $12,250 pulled out of the local budget to help cover the cost of meals. The district paid Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center $122,748 to host the institute, including lodging for 263 people, venue space and the cost of meals. A $24,570 donation helped fund the institute that covered the remaining cost of the meals.

On June 10, before Gov. Roy Cooper visited Knox Middle School the RSS Board of Education approved a $1,000 bonus to all faculty and a 6.5% bonus to all non-certified staff. Those bonuses were paid for with local money.

At a June 24 district workshop, Watlington spoke to the board about using the grant funding to hire some of the best teachers in the area as well.

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