Hays CISD offers stipend to improve performance at elementary school

Hemphill Elementary in Kyle, Texas (KXAN photo/Lauren Lanmon)
Hemphill Elementary in Kyle, Texas (KXAN photo/Lauren Lanmon)

KYLE, Texas (KXAN) – A poor rating from the state last school year has Hays Consolidated Independent School District officials working on a new plan to improve performance at Hemphill Elementary School.

On Tuesday, board members approved a new stipend plan for teachers and administrators in hopes of boosting morale and results. The stipend will compensate turnaround campus staff for additional hours or days worked to support planning and instruction activities for the campus.

For the 2015-2016 school year, the Texas Education Agency ranked Hemphill Elementary as ‘improvement required.’ Additionally, the school received a ‘D’ for post-secondary readiness and an ‘F’ in regards to student achievement, student progress and closing performance gaps.

Hemphill Elementary School third grade teacher Natalie Martinez-Esparza reading to her students. (KXAN Photo)
Hemphill Elementary School third grade teacher Natalie Martinez-Esparza reading to her students. (KXAN Photo)

The school ranks the lowest in the district and is the first school in Hays CISD to receive an ‘improvement required’ rating. Teachers say the challenges they face deal with many students coming from low-income families.

“We’re starting from ground zero here, because they haven’t ultimately had all the education at home or the foundation at home to get them started,” said Hemphill Elementary School third grade teacher Natalie Martinez-Esparza.

In hopes of improving test scores, the entire campus will be restructured, starting with a new principal. “One of the first things I want to do is work on building those relationships,” said the new principal Cynthia Vasquez. “Not just with my staff, but with my parents and all of my stakeholders.”

The stipend will only be available for three years and will be paid on an annual basis to staff members who fulfill annual contractual requirements. The stipend amount for the principal is $5,000. The assistant principal would get $3,000 and $1,500 would go to counselors, nurses, instructional coaches and teachers.

Principal Vasquez hopes the extra money will bring in some of the best teachers and push current teachers to improve. “They do it because they truly care and love what they do. This profession is a lot more than just the paycheck or the stipend, but it certainly helps.”

“We are the individuals that sit here and dedicate our time, our weekends, our home life so that our children are receiving the best education as possible,” said Martinez-Esparza.

For passionate teachers throughout the school, the incentive is already bringing hope. “Change is good because ultimately we have to set those high expectations for our children. We have to know that they are our future and if we don’t change and provide the best education for them, they may not be able to compete with the other children out there,” said Martinez-Esparza.

The stipend will be paid out of the general operating budget. District leaders say although there will be new faces at Hemphill next year, no teachers are expected to lose their jobs due to the restructuring.

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