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Teachers React To Incentive Plan

February 8, 2012, 5:53 PM by Peggy Moyer

Teachers React To Incentive Plan
BERESFORD, SD - Teachers are at the center of the changes being proposed to Governor Dennis Daugaard’s plan to attract and keep the best teachers in South Dakota classrooms.

"I'm not offended, but at the same time there is a little bit of that underlying, 'What about us?'" Beresford English teacher Tommy Merriman said. 

Merriman is in his second year of teaching English at Beresford High.  The school funding for bonuses for just math and science teachers won't help him.

Greg Hammerquist teaches Calculus and Algebra, just down the hall.

"My initial reaction was great! I'll take $3,500. I'm not going to turn down money, but at the same time, when you look at the guy next door to you, who is not teaching a math or science curriculum and what makes me more valuable than them," Hammerquist said.

One option with the new amendment would channel all math and science bonus dollars to new teachers willing to work in South Dakota's public schools. Hammerquist wasn't sure the original reward system was fair; now he's concerned about how it could treat experienced teachers.

"I think you're setting up a situation where you're going to have anxiety and some dissension because you may have a teacher who has taught for five to 10 years in the district and has done very well and is performing well and you're going to have someone who is new and unproven at that point possibly making more money out of the gate and that can cause some hard feelings," Hammerquist said.

Beresford superintendent Brian Field says not all schools struggle with recruiting math or science teachers. Last year, Beresford needed special education teachers, so he would like to see the option where the legislature gives school districts the authority to use incentives where they need them.

"Of course, student achievement is priority number one, but in order to meet that student achievement, you've got to have staff in place too," Field said.

"I know they want to say you can't throw money at a problem to fix it, but when you start taking money away, you start taking away opportunities for these kids," Hammerquist said.

The Beresford School District had to cut more than $300,000 in salary expenses last year.  Field said he'd like to see the state focus efforts on increasing the per-student funding as well.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
A misspelling was corrected in this story.

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