TAP is a teacher professional development, evaluation and compensation system that was implemented at nine schools in Pickens County.
How TAP Started:
When the TAP program was first introduced to the school board, the DíAndrea administration said TAP was paid for by the TAP grant and the program would not need any non-TAP money from the board. The administration said the faculties at each school would have to vote on whether or not the school would adopt the program.
My thought at the time was if the board doesnít have to pay for it and the teachers have to buy into the program, let those schools that want to try it, try. The first school to adopt the program was AR Lewis. In a year or two, other schools voted to begin TAP. This time the Hunt administration told the board the program was paid for by the TAP grant and it would not require any funding from the school board.
All in all, nine schools adopted the program.
As time passed, some board members heard master teachers and principals were flying to TAP conferences in California, so periodically a board member would ask is the board paying for that? Each time the answer was ďNoĒ, the TAP grant is paying for it. The board doesnít have to pay for the program. I can remember the times I asked such questions, Iíd always end the conversation with something like I donít support paying for that.
TAPís Funding Phase-out:
TAP was paid for by the state and federal government, but the program was a 5 year grant with a phase-out. Through this year the TAP program was fully funded, but that was going to change going forward as the TAP grant phased out. For 2012-13 the board was being asked to put up $275,000. Looking at the schedule, the year after that figure was going to be $800,000, then $1.3 million the following year. The next year the entire $2.2 million for the program at the nine schools had to be funded by the school district.
This phase out information was withheld from the board in my opinion. Looking back, I suspect the reason is both administrations knew the board would have never OKed even trying the program, given the district was in the midst of the economic crisis and didnít want to make any new financial commitments.
If the district kept moving down the TAP path, the costs to the district kept rising, peaking at $2.2 million for the program at the nine schools. That money would have had to come out of some other budget item. If all the 27 schools decided to adopt TAP, the cost to the district would have risen to the $4 to $7 million range.
I couldnít support committing to something new that grew each year in cost, when the district has a list of commitments it is still struggling to meet. For example, we have 400,000 sqf of new space and have added zero custodians. We'll add another 250,000 sqf next year. The district bought 6,500 laptops. It costs $1 million a year to refresh 1/3 of them. This annual refresh will not occur next year because we donít have that money either. Gettys being split will cost $700,000 a year. The general fund account is still dependent on an annual subsidy from the special revenue account, because the general fund revenues are still short of general fund expenditures, somewhere in the $750,000 range.
In my book this was management 101 issue. We first need to focus on finding way to pay for items weíve already committed to before we take on any new financial commitments.
If there is going to be any spending on new initiatives, I think the first priority should be adding back classroom teaching positions. Surely not funding TAP. The district/ board eliminated 30 teaching positions the past two years. It has added back 8.5 positions only. In my book, it has a ways to go in order to get class sizes back down.
Additionally, the district canít possibly fund a program that pays master teachers $10,000 bonuses, mentor teachers $5,000 bonuses and some teachers up to $2,000 bonuses when it is struggling to pay most of our employees a $1,000 pay raise. That wasnít fair either.
Resistance From Teachers:
The feedback among teachers on TAP was mixed. Classroom teachers donít have enough time in their classroom now to prepare for lessons, grade papers or meet with parents. They see some continuing education or professional development as taking away that valuable time. The way I saw this aspect of the issue was the district was trying to slap another layer of professional development on top of that, TAP, and many were resistant.
It is very similar to this: You have 10 coats of paint on something, and you just slap an 11th coat on top of it. What needed to be done is to strip all the paint off, down to the wood and then decide if you want paint, stain or varnish. I didnít support slapping another layer of professional development on the system.
I suggested the district strip professional development down. Then start with a TAP like model that contained TAPís most valuable aspects (like teacher interaction, combing over students test scores, etc.) and using this as the districtís primary professional development tool. It would be funded by monies already in the current professional development budget. Just slapping another professional development system on top of what we have now I didnít support given teachers are saying they donít have enough catch-up time now.
Throughout the TAP debate, the others side said Mick Zais supported the program so we needed to support it and pickup the funding as the TAP grant phased out. My response was always, if Zais loves the program so much, he should fund it.
The other side also said in two years Zaisí plan was to implement a TAP program state wide. When I actually talked to a principal who talked to Zais about it, the principal said this was a Zais proposal that was tied to changing the pay for teachers to a merit based pay system.
If that is the case, the plan would have to pass the legislature and Zaisí trackrecord his first two years with the legislature has been unimpressive.
TAP advocates also argued if TAP was eliminated, it would cost teachers their jobs. This was a tactic that proved to be untrue and ineffective in the end.
The TAP program had 13.5 master teacher positions. (One position was half-time.) Master teachers are not classroom teachers who teach students in the classroom. Master teachers trained teachers. When the TAP program ends on June 30th, those 13.5 positions will be eliminated. No classroom teaching positions will be eliminated.
What will happen to the 13.5 employees who were in those master teaching positions? As this school year is winding down some of the districtís 1,150 classroom teachers are submitting retirement notices or resigning for other reasons. Those 13.5 employees have been placed as classroom teachers for next year and have jumped into teaching slots being vacated. None of those teachers or any other teachers lost their jobs because of the elimination of TAP.
Transition In District Adminstrations:
From the start it was clear TAP funding phased out over time. Various board members also made it clear numerous times the would not vote to pick up the funding as the TAP funding began to phase out. The DíAndrea and Hunt administrations knew this.
I remember talking with Dr. Hunt about three months before the TAP debate started. I said I will not vote to fund the program. He responded, the principals have been told when the TAP funding phases out, the program will end.
The board then selected Dr. Pew as the future superintendent and her first priority was to continue the TAP program and she asked the board to pickup the funding for the program.
This was a 180 degree turn from the Hunt administration and one of the primary reasons for the debate on the issue. If you noticed, throughout the debate, Dr. Hunt didnít lead the pro-TAP side. Nor did he strongly argue for the board to pick up the funding for the TAP program. I suspect he remembered the long history and the boardís position on not wanting to fund the program.
The fact TAP funding phased out over time and the board would not vote to pick up the funding should not have been a surprise to anyone. In fact, 18 principals foresaw where this was heading and didnít adopt the program ó a couple of years of full funding, then funding declined to zero over time. Nine principals chose to adopt the program anyway. That was their decision. No one twisted their arms to adopt the program.
The board was consistent throughout. It didnít want to fund TAP at the beginning, in the middle or at the end.