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Published in Print: May 1, 2002, as New Orleans Soliciting Businesses For Bonuses

New Orleans Soliciting Businesses For Bonuses

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The school district in New Orleans is offering bonuses to newly certified teachers—and looking for help to pay for the incentive.

The Orleans Parish district has more than 700 uncertified teachers among its faculty of 5,700, and is asking businesses in the city and the surrounding area to donate money toward the signing bonuses it plans to give to new certified teachers starting in the fall, said Al Davis, its the chief executive officer.

He said the 73,000-student district would match the donations with its own money. "If 100 businesses send from $500 to $2,500, I would be elated with that," Mr. Davis said.

New Orleans' Recruit A Certified Teacher program— or REACTis one of many novel approaches that urban districts are using to hire or train qualified teachers to address shortages. ("Urban Districts Employing More Aggressive Hiring Tactics," Oct. 3, 2001.)

In addition to REACT, the district is offering evening courses at its offices that teachers need to earn certification in their fields. But the district has decided that it needs to do more, Mr. Davis said.

A New Twist

To lure certified teachers— either new to or already in the profession—New Orleans will pay bonuses of $1,000 to $5,000. Mr. Davis said he expects to hire enough new certified teachers over several years to replace the uncertified ones now in the classroom. If the district pays an average $3,000 bonus to 700 new teachers, it will need to raise a total of $2.1 million in public and private funds, a figure that could be spread out over several years.

The money from businesses will offset some of the district's costs. The New Orleans economy relies on tourism, casinos, and oil refineries.

As of late last week,the district had received one $2,500 check and promises that more checks are on the way, said Linetta McIver, a district spokeswoman.

In the past decade, many districts have worked with banks, real estate companies, and relocation services to help teachers cut their costs in settling into a new area, according to B.J. Bryant, the executive director of the American Association for Employment in Education, a Columbus, Ohio-based group representing school human-resources directors. This is the first time Ms. Bryant has heard of a district raising private money to pay for signing bonuses.

Paying such bonuses "is an idea that's been around a long time," she said, "but it's become a lot more common now."

Vol. 21, Issue 33, Page 11

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