As the Westerville City School District trimmed its budget over the last few years, it became a standard practice to fill vacancies with younger teachers who were lower on the pay scale.
To help ensure that those teachers are prepared for a successful career, the Board of Education on Monday, Jan. 28 approved supplemental pay for 87 veteran teachers to serve as mentors to new teachers, and named Alcott Elementary teacher Lisa Kuhar as resident educator coordinator.
Under an Ohio law that was created in 2009 and effective in 2011, all teachers who are in their first four years on the job are considered "resident educators." Districts are required to provide additional support to those teachers, who will have to complete requirements and an exam at the end of the residency period, said Curt Jackowski, employee relations services executive director for the district.
The district has provided mentors as required but on a less formal basis, Jackowski said.
The steps taken by the board will pay the teacher mentors $1,100 for each of the 110 teachers in the district who are considered resident educators. In addition Kuhar will be able to coordinate programs to provide additional support to young teachers and intervene as needed when problems arise, Jackowski said.
"The key thing is creating and maintaining that quality assurance with our mentors and our resident educators," Jackowski told the board.
The district explored contracting for the state-mandated services with the Educational Service Center of Central Ohio, Jackowski said.
The contract cost would have ranged from $165,000 per year to $227,000 per year depending on the level of service and would not include the cost of supplemental contracts for mentors or a full-time support person for the program, Jackowski said.
The cost of providing the service in-house, including supplemental contracts and the cost of a full-time resident educator coordinator, is about $150,000 per year, Jackowski said.
The district is eligible for a $350 reimbursement from the state per mentor, Jackowski added.
Board member Carol French cast the lone vote against naming a resident educator coordinator and providing mentors with supplemental pay, saying the state-mandated program lacked value.
"I'm upset with the state for even requiring this kind of thing," French said. "These teachers know what they're supposed to do. They know where to get help if they need it."
Other board members disagreed.
Board member Kevin Hoffman said that while the district does hire perfectly capable teachers, any person entering their first job out of college has questions and needs guidance.
"There was a lot of on-the-job training, things you didn't know until you got there," Hoffman said.
The program will help new teachers move from "good to great more quickly," Hoffman said, and the cost of program is far eclipsed by the savings the district realizes by hiring new teachers at the bottom of the pay scale.
"This is a good investment," he said.