The Texas Education Agency selected Palestine Independent School District for a new incentive program that will reward roughly $350,000 to nine teachers over the next five years.
The Teacher Incentive Allotment is part of House Bill 3, the historic education bill passed by the Texas Legislature in 2019 to revamp the state’s funding to school districts and increase teachers’ pay. The incentives reward classroom success and improve teacher recruitment and retention.
Palestine ISD is one of 26 districts selected by TEA to receive the incentives. Texas has more than 1,200 school districts statewide. Palestine ISD spokesperson Larissa Loveless said the district qualified for the state incentives because they already had a similar program, and will serve as a “game-changer” in retaining teachers.
“This might make a good teacher stay in the classroom,” Loveless said. “House Bill 3 shows teachers just how important they are.”
Of the nine recipients, all teach elementary or secondary reading or math. Incentives vary between $5,000 to $12,000 per year, according to each teacher’s rating and the percentage of economically disadvantaged students at the assigned campus.
The teachers in Cohort A received ratings of Recognized, Exemplary, or Master based on evaluations and students’ academic growth.
Two secondary teachers, Janice Magee of Palestine High School and Samantha Templin of Palestine Junior High, received Exemplary ratings, which qualified them for higher pay incentives. Seven teachers received Recognized ratings.
Adrian Reagan is one of four teachers at AM Story Intermediate to receive a Recognized rating. Mary Bowden, Rachel Thigpen, and Jake Odom also received the Recognized rating.
As sixth grade math teacher and department chair, Reagan said the pay incentive is encouraging.
“It’s nice to be recognized,” she said. “That really just makes you want to keep doing what you’re doing.”
Secondary teachers receiving Recognized ratings include Kaysi Vaughn and Erica Reeves of PJH and Tammy Armstrong of PHS.
Templin has taught eighth grade math at PJH for eight years.
“The kids rose to the occasion for us to reach those goals,” Templin said.
An educator of 21 years, Magee teaches math to ninth through eleventh grades at PHS. She said she feels “humbled” by the award and credits her students’ work ethic for her teaching success.
The district will apply for a second cohort of teachers to receive pay incentives next spring. The new cohort will likely include teachers of other core subjects, such as science and social studies, who did not qualify the first time. The application will again include teacher ratings and measures of student improvement.
Palestine schools have an enrollment of almost 3,500 students and roughly 300 teachers.