Planning has started for merit-based pay for South-Western City School administrators.

Planning has started for merit-based pay for South-Western City School administrators.

Performance-based merit pay raises were part of the contract approved June 10 for administrators. Beginning with the 2012-13 school year, new administrative employees, and any current administrators who opt to do so, will take part in a merit-based compensation structure.

Superintendent Bill Wise said the district started to study the idea of performance compensation when there appeared to be a trend at the federal and state level.

"We've been in the process of looking at performance compensation for actually about two years," he said.

Compensation would be awarded using a goals-based system with measurable objectives, Wise said. Student performance would be a significant component. The district has about 20,000 students.

Administrative employees, the South-Western Administrative Association (SWAA) leadership, the district treasurer, the deputy superintendent, the head of personnel, and probably a board member will be involved primarily in development.

The district won't hire any outside consultant, so no outright additional expenditure will occur, Wise said.

Wise said he hasn't heard any concerns about the plan at this point. Administrative employees "have been very cooperative and very understanding" as the district works through the process, he said.

The district has about 90 SWAA members.

Given natural turnover, Wise estimated the vast majority of administrative employees would participate in performance compensation in five to seven years, if not sooner. Ultimately, he hopes to create a system that people would want to opt into. He also hopes to apply the system to other types of staff, if it works well enough.

"Our hope is that this will make us more results-oriented," he said.

District treasurer Hugh Garside said the group has looked at existing models in other states. Some models were confusing, and some districts deviated from the models they created or got rid of them altogether, he said.

"We didn't want to establish something that we weren't going to be able to hold onto for the long haul," Garside said.

The district also is looking at what other districts are doing in the Race to the Top Program, which has a performance-based process. SWCS is not a part of Race to the Top.

The Ohio Department of Education's website describes Race to the Top as "a competitive grant program designed to encourage and reward states that are creating the conditions for education innovation and reform."

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) allocated $4.35-billion for the program.

The state is studying a model for merit-based pay, Garside said. Senate Bill 5, which included provisions for mandatory merit-based pay, is headed for a statewide referendum.

Garside said the district is delaying decisions until the state has a model. He said he didn't know when that will happen.

The district's development group has looked at the performance index for the district and its individual schools. The measures could take into account different types of learning populations within each individual building, such as students who speak English as a second language and those taking special education. Administrators tied to other types of service, such as transportation or food service, would have other types of indicators.

Some teachers might not get raises in the performance-based system, Garside said. He said it is too soon to predict if the change would save district money.

Bob Rains, district personnel director and SWAA president until Aug. 1, said he doesn't yet have an opinion on the performance-based system. The association didn't fight the system, and they want what's best for students, he said.

"I have not heard anybody voice any complaints," he said.