We Can’T Even Give It Away ...

School board questions group’s donation for teacher stipends


The Payson Association for Advanced Learners (PAAL) has faced problems figuring out how to get the Payson Unified School District to accept a cash gift to provide stipends for teachers taking on extra responsibilities.

But on May 21, the parent-teacher group did manage to donate some money for the district to pay teachers who had spent time working with advanced learners above and beyond their normal teaching requirements.

For weeks previous to the May 21 meeting, the organization vainly sought a slot on the board’s agenda. When the group finally did get a slot on the agenda, it was too late for the teachers to get their stipend until after the summer, said PAAL president Laurel Wala.

The delay in payment represents a hardship for teachers, since they do not receive a paycheck for the eight weeks of summer they do not teach.

“It is a donation, but all the coordinators are receiving it,” said Superintendent Casey O’Brien. “PAAL felt it was important enough to gifted education that they were willing to create their own gifted stipend for each of the coordinators at each of the school sites.”

PAAL’s donation continues a stipend the state formerly paid the teachers for taking on the responsibility of “gifted coordinator.”

The state eliminated the payments due to budget cuts.

The way the donation showed up on the agenda prompted questions from several board members about whether they could vote on an “extracurricular contract.”

O’Brien explained the contract was actually a donated stipend, not a contract.

“So that is a stipend that came from PAAL and there’s nothing in our policy about not being able to receive this?” asked board member Barbara Shepherd.

“No not at all, if they wanted to just give a gift, they could; they are a separate organization,” said O’Brien, “There is a lot of work that took place of the coordination duties.”

Each school had a coordinator: Leslie Reisdorf from Payson Elementary School; Pam Jones, Julia Randall Elementary School; Marlene Armstrong, Rim Country Middle School; and Anna Van Zile, Payson High School.

Van Zile’s stipend especially confused the board because she is an administrator.

“How can a principal be our gifted coordinator?” asked Shepherd.

“It’s for when she was assistant principal,” said O’Brien. “She has been the gifted coordinator (for the high school) ... So this is not a contract, but a gift given to her.”

After the discussion, the board voted to accept the PAAL donation.

Last year, PAAL raised more than $30,000 to gift annual stipends to the gifted coordinators, purchasing testing materials for second- and fifth-graders, paid for teacher training for the PHS engineering program, supported the middle school Model UN club, funded field trips to the Music Museum, Science Museum and the Mars Student Imaging Project, as well as the Payson Elementary Lego program.


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