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Math, science teachers getting incentive pay
Hall has 29 math and science educators
Stephanie Clark, right, a science teacher from Habersham Ninth Grade Academy who teaches a “Steps to College” summer science course for high schoolers at Gainesville State College, shows Carlisle Wynne, chairwomen of the school’s Department of Education, some of the science students’ projects. Georgia has a new incentive program for science and math teachers that includes pay raises. - photo by Tom Reed

Kevin Baker logged onto the Hall County Schools portal Tuesday and had a nice surprise.

The seventh-grade math teacher at East Hall Middle School had some extra money in his paycheck.

"I was just checking my monthly information on my payroll check, and that's how I found out," said Baker, a first-year teacher. "I think shock kind of took over. It was a nice surprise."

Baker is one of 29 Hall County math and science teachers receiving a pay incentive as part of the provisions of Georgia House Bill 280, which passed in 2009.

The bill addressed ways to rectify a shortage of math and science teachers in grades sixth through 12th in the state. Then-Gov. Sonny Perdue noticed fewer and fewer Georgia college graduates going into these areas, said Matt Cardoza, director of communications for the Georgia Department of Education.

"We have to attract math and science teachers," Forsyth County Superintendent Buster Evans said.

"One of the ways our legislature and others looked at that shortage is if we can pay more, we can attract quality teachers and retain them."

Hall County Schools does not have any openings for math and science teachers, Superintendent Will Schofield said.

"I've gone through 15 years of ‘Let's see if we can find one math teacher' and ‘Let's see if I can find one science teacher.' We certainly don't have a surplus of math and science teachers by any means," he said. "The impetus behind what pushed that legislation is certainly real. We're fortunate in that we're close to the metro Atlanta area and people want to live here."

Cardoza said the pay incentive bumped first-year math and science teachers to a fifth-year salary, a jump of $3,100 funded by the state.

This is the first year the 2009 bill had money backing it. Evans said the total state funding was around $12 million.

Some 58 Forsyth County teachers will also see a pay increase, he said.

There is some unease about veteran and kindergarten through fifth-grade teachers not receiving any sort of incentive.

"I've been a teacher for 10 years," said Stephanie Clark, a science teacher at Habersham Ninth Grade Academy. "Particularly for science, we have a more rigorous education to get here."

Clark said the curriculum future science teachers study can make it more difficult to attract new people.

For Kristal Hollis, a senior at Gainesville State College who wants to teach science at the elementary school level, no incentive will draw her away from the young children.

"Middle school has crossed my mind, but it's not where my passion lies," she said. "I do think it should be extended to teachers at elementary levels, if they have the credentials."

Baker said he felt a pay incentive, no matter at what level, would do its job and draw people to the education field.

"I think it's a great idea," said Gary Martin, a third-year math teacher at DaVinci Academy. "With all the cuts to education, it's enticing to people. Any time you get more money these days, it's a good thing."

Though LaChele Brown, an eighth-grade math teacher at East Hall Middle School, will not be getting a pay incentive, she thinks it's a good thing for the county.

"I think it has its benefits to get qualified teachers," she said. "I do wish I were getting it just because I've been there and done the work, but I'm in it for the kids. I'm not upset about it."