Carver Heights Elementary School

Carver Heights Elementary School third-graders from left, Savannah Atkinson and Jayden Anderson, raise their hands to respond to a question posed by Marie Isler, retired educator who is now tutoring at the school. Other students pictured are Jashaun Mitchell and Takendra Faison.

There are added challenges to working in a low-performing school, so Carver Heights Elementary School principal Patrice Faison is putting her money where her mouth is — offering monetary supplements to qualified candidates.

Accessing federal dollars through School Improvement Grants, she said she is prepared to pay a $5,000 stipend to certified teachers who make a two-year commitment to teach at the school.

Instructional assistants, office support, “basically anybody out of the classroom,” she said, could receive a $1,750 supplement.

Through certain grants, principals have the discretion to use the funding to address additional needs at the school.

Faison started in the role Nov. 5, in the midst of a potential upheaval as the state threatened to place the school in the hands of the Innovative School District, created in 2016 to turn around repeatedly low-performing schools.

In January, the state Board of Education reversed course and approved the district’s Restart application. The Restart Model of school reform gives the district two years to demonstrate academic improvements or again be faced with takeover as part of the ISD.

Faison came to the school with more than 22 years of experience in the state education system, as well as a reputation for school turnaround success.

“My philosophy is a little different,” she said. “We treat them (staff) like professionals and they’ll rise to it. Come here to Carver Heights. We know you’re going to work harder. We’ll provide you with the hard-to-staff supplement.”

Educators these days are already juggling a lot of different roles, from a mother to a nurse, as well as a teacher in the classroom, Faison said.

“But when you come to a school like ours, you’re facing harder challenges. You should be rewarded for that,” the administrator said. “You should benefit.”

The financial incentive is not new, she explained. It has been included in the school’s grant and utilized previously.

“We have written in $500 more for custodians, bus drivers and cafeteria workers,” she said. “There is a two-year commitment for certified staff — because they are actually the most difficult to get. Once our grant is over, we can’t guarantee them money, but we do have it for the next two years.

“This year our teachers got $3,000. Next year it will be $5,000. Along with that, we’re also increasing the amount in the grant that teachers will receive for exceeding growth.”

Faison said she hopes to create a culture that benefits students, and one way to do that is by putting together a “great quality pool” of professionals. After all, there are additional requirements at a low-performing school, which potentially generate bonuses.

“Our teachers will report back a week early, and they’ll receive a stipend, a nice stipend, for that,” she said. “You also have the opportunity to get aid to tutor after school.”

Faison said she is in the process of posting job openings for the fall.

As the end of the school year is fast approaching, she said there are several retirements pending, as well as positions that were not filled.

“This year we had lots of long-term subs,” she said. “When I came here, I broke them up, but the classes got larger, and what I want to do is go back to smaller class sizes.

“Right now we need two EC (exceptional children) teachers, which is extremely difficult to find. We need a teacher at every grade level now. I would say we’re looking at trying to get 15 teachers. The biggest thing is going to be certified teachers, although cafeteria workers are also needed.”