Math and science teachers in Alabama’s schools have the option to receive a raise of at least $5,000 a year — while also giving up their tenure — if they opt in to the state’s new Teacher Excellence and Accountability for Mathematics and Science contract.
Cullman City Schools Superintendent Kyle Kallhoff and Chief School Finance Office James Brumley spoke about the TEAMS contracts during a work session with the Cullman City School Board Tuesday morning.
The TEAMS Act was passed by the Alabama legislature and signed by Gov. Kay Ivey on May 8, and is meant to be a new tool for recruiting and retaining teachers in the math and science fields, Brumley said.
“It was built as a recruitment tool to entice and keep, and get more math and science teachers,” he said.
Math and science teachers who have an advanced credential from either the National Institute for STEM Education or National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Certification, or plan to obtain one, can enter into the TEAMS contract and receive a raise of $5,000-$21,704 depending on their step in the teacher salary schedule.
As part of signing the TEAMS contract, teachers will become a contract employee and give up their tenure, but any years under a TEAMS contract do still count toward a teacher’s retirement, Brumley said.
There are other eligibility requirements that teachers have to meet, such as teaching full-time in approved courses and teaching math or science subjects for the entire day with only one planning period, Kallhoff said.
The middle school has seven periods in a day, which means eligible teachers must be teaching math or science for six of those periods, and high school teachers have to teach math or science of seven out of its eight periods, he said.
Brumley said teachers who already have the STEM Institute credential or are National Board-certified can be signed to a TEAMS contract for up to three years at a time, and those who are working to obtain one of the two eligible credentials can be placed under a one-year preliminary contract that is renewable for up to three years as long as teachers show progress toward obtaining the certification.
Teachers who have tenure and sign on to a preliminary TEAMS contract but fail to receive their advanced credential can go back to previous tenure one time, but they will be unable to do so again if they try a preliminary contract for a second time, Brumley said.
“They can revert back to their tenure — if they had tenure with us — one time,” he said.
Brumley said school systems receive one math TEAMS slot and one science slot for every 105 students they have, so there could be up to 34 teachers — 17 science and 17 math — who can go forward with the contract, but he does not believe there will be that many this year.
Kallhoff said teachers in the system have been notified of their option to move onto a TEAMS contract, with 12 teachers attending an informational meeting last week, and they have until July 31 to apply.
Lisa Faust, who is the Alabama Education Association’s representative for Cullman City and Cullman County Schools, said some at the AEA are looking at the TEAMS Act as a prelude to the state working toward getting rid of the tenure system entirely by offering more money to teachers who are willing to forgo their tenure.
“We realize that it’s like a carrot being dangled out in front, and we feel like it’s dipping the toe in the water for getting rid of tenure completely,” she said.
Faust said she has had meetings with the county’s teachers and recommended for them to wait to see how everything works out in the first year of the program’s existence.
“We’re hoping that people are cautious and consider everything,” she said. “We just want our folks to know everything before they make a commitment to it.”
If the program is a success in recruiting more teachers and enticing them to stay in the job, the state could hopefully expand the TEAMS model into other areas that can be difficult to find teachers, Kallhoff said.
“That’s the other area where there are fewer and fewer teachers out there,” he said.