in Houston, Texas
Principals at struggling HISD schools may get bonuses of up to $30,000 in incentive-pay plan
Wednesday, Nov 10, 2010, 07:09PM CST
By Lynn Walsh

Principals at some of Houston’s most academically challenged schools may see $30,000 bonuses this school year if trustees approve an incentive-pay model Thursday -- one for which the principals helped create the metrics.

The Houston Independent School District principals helm four high schools and five middle schools that are part of the $29.5 million Apollo 20 academic turn-around program launched this school year. The goal of the program is to improve student performance through a lengthened school year, longer school days and tutoring services.

Leading the drive toward academic success are nine principals who, according to HISD, were heavily recruited to bring academic excellence to Lee, Kashmere, Sharpstown and Jones high schools, as well as Fondren, Key, Ryan, Attucks and Dowling middle schools, which make up the first round of the Apollo 20 program. Eleven elementary schools are slated to enter the program next school year.

On top of receiving sign-on bonuses that cost the district more than $49,000 this year, Apollo 20 principals could receive an additional $30,000 at a high school and $20,000 at a middle school if trustees approve the bonus-pay model at the November school board meeting.

HISD Trustee Manuel Rodriguez said he is not sure this is the right time to be “handing out” bonuses. “Not all HISD employees received raises this year, and with the current budget, they may not receive them next year. I am not sure this is the time to be handing out bonuses to principals,” Rodriguez said.

Trustee Harvin Moore disagreed. “We are not handing out bonuses. These principals will be earning them,” Moore said.

On top of this, the principals -- as all principals -- can earn up to $15,530 a year in bonuses through the district-wide performance pay program, ASPIRE.

According to the agenda for Thursday’s meeting (see item E-4), principals would receive the bonus by meeting a combination of targets related to student attendance, student achievement and graduation, dropout or grade completion rates -- all of which were determined through input from the nine principals and using testing and attendance data from previous years.

A detailed description of the incentive pay model can be viewed here.

The maximum total cost of the incentive program if approved would be $239,000 and would be funded through federal money and private grants, according to HISD.

Parent Visionaries, a group of parent leaders representing schools throughout the Houston district, is concerned general funds -- the school system’s main checking account -- will be used if the district does not raise the $6 million in private funding it still needs for the Apollo 20 program.

According to an e-mail from Michel Pola, HISD Superintendent Terry Grier’s chief of staff, that is not the case.

“General fund is not being used to fund the incentives. The three sources being used are state transformation grants, schools’ per pupil title II allocations (Title II is federal entitlement money for recruitment, retention, and performance); third source is private funds...The HISD foundation is aggressively raising funds for the Apollo program. There are funds set aside for the Apollo program; however, we anticipate raising sufficient private funds.”

The November HISD board of education meeting is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. Thursday at the Hattie Mae White building in Houston. Follow @TexasWatchdog on Twitter for live updates during the meeting.

For a complete look at the most recent Apollo 20 budget, click here.

Questions about this story or other education news can be sent to Lynn Walsh,, 713-228-2850, or on Twitter @LWalsh.

concerned taxpayer
Wednesday, 11/10/2010 - 07:32PM

What is even more concerning is that the ASPIRE awards for SIOs and Chiefs are based on the performance of the whole district not the schools for which these fine people are responsible. For example and SIO's bonus is not based on the performance of the schools that they supervise, but all schools in HISD.

On the other hand, each teacher is responsible for the students in their class.

Is this fair or ethical?

hisd parent
Wednesday, 11/10/2010 - 08:18PM

I hadn't heard that before, but it seems to make sense. Part of the job of the elementary school is to help prepare the students for middle school, and the same is true for middle to high school. Also, I would like for all of them to think about anything they could do to improve the effectiveness of the entire district.

Plan Already Approved
Wednesday, 11/10/2010 - 09:06PM

The incentive-pay model was approved back in April. It was item E1.

Wednesday, 11/10/2010 - 10:03PM

This all great from a district that do not hold students accountable for the educational process but the teachers. Why are they not getting such an enormous amount of money, they did the work! That seems a lot of money for a principal who is motivating (LOL) the teachers to do thier jobs.

Jennifer Peebles
Wednesday, 11/10/2010 - 10:52PM

Plan Already Approved,

The board voted earlier this year to approve the plan, but it needs another vote of final approval, which is slated for Thursday's school board meeting. (Please see the Houston Chronicle story tonight on this topic as a backup - that link is It's very common for government bodies, including school boards, city and county commissions, and state legislatures to require multiple votes on a given topic before it officially takes effect, as is the case here. And I'm aware of some government bodies that actually require three votes on an issue, not two.

We appreciate you and all of our readers and commenters taking time for us!

Take care,

Jennifer P.

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