Some Time With Becky Stallop
Posted on this blog over the next few weeks will be a question/ answer interview with Becky Stallcop. Becky is currently the principal and superintendent at Liberty Charter School in Nampa. She is the founder of the Harbor School Method which is used in whole or in part, not only by Liberty Charter but also a host of schools in Idaho. These Harbor schools are some of the very highest academic achieving schools in the State.
Prior to her current position at Liberty Charter she served as principal at Nampa’s Lincoln, Iowa, and Central Elementary School where she improved the student’s test scores to be the best in that school district. She has also served as a second, third, fifth grade & Title I teacher.
Becky has tremendous insight as to what it takes to have a successful school. Stallcop stated, “You make kids think they can do anything and they do, It is all about effort and attitude!” The current catch phrase in the education arena today is “Putting Kids First.” Becky has been putting kids first her entire career.
Following is the first segment of that interview:
You have had a long and very successful career as a public school educator, teacher and administrator. As you look back at that career, what do you consider the highs and the lows?
BECKY: The “highs” would include being authorized by the Idaho Public Charter School Commission. There really hasn’t been many “lows.” There have been times that were more difficult than others, but all in all, I have loved the charter journey and the school we have been able to provide to students.
You are the founder of the Harbor School Method, which on occasion has come under heavy criticism in that it is supposedly too regimented, and relies too much on rote learning. How do you respond to the critics and what is the status of the Harbor Method today?
BECKY: It is regimented in terms of its expectations of students and adults in the school setting. That is the only way to ensure the safe culture of a Harbor School. Semi-supervised areas like hallways, lunchrooms, and unsupervised areas like bathrooms are where bullying occurs. Consistent expectations and discipline in these areas have ensured safe learning environments in those Harbor schools that have remained true to the model. It’s amazing how taking away the opportunity for bullying to occur creates a setting where students aren’t inhibited to learn and take academic risks.
As far as rote learning – it’s necessary. One needs a foundation in order to apply knowledge. Over the last 12 years where Harbor Schools have stuck with the model, we see how this bears out…when student achievement scores tend to flatline or go down in public schools, our students’ scores continue to go up. And the status of the Harbor Method today? Well, one only has to look at three schools currently, Liberty, Victory, and Legacy Charter School, to see that the mission, vision and philosophy of the Harbor School Method bring about great student outcomes both academically and personally.
Let’s look at the school in which you are administrator, Liberty Charter School, as there are many questions about your teachers’ salaries, your graduation rates, and your perceived lack of low-income and minority students.
Becky: Everyone always says that great teachers are worth “their weight in gold”…but the problem for those great teachers has always been that the average and poor teachers were getting the same salaries. Why? Why reward mediocrity to poor performance equally with those who are outstanding? And research shows time and time again that what makes the biggest difference in student learning is teacher effectiveness – i.e., great teachers. So why not put the majority of your dollars into the classroom. In other words, if you offer great salaries, you get the best teachers, and you keep the best teachers in the classroom, rather than them going into administrative roles where salaries have always been higher. But, to clarify our teachers’ salaries, it must be pointed out that our teachers aren’t given automatic raises. They must apply for those raises. And our high salaries come with accountability. They are given raises dependent upon their “attitude and effort.” As well, our teachers follow the same strict attendance policy as our students and receive no personal days. So while our teacher salaries are high, so are the expectations.
I didn’t realize our high graduation rate conjured up questions, so I am at a loss as to how to respond. I would hope people would want to know why that’s the case and come to find out.
Our reduced and free lunch number is at 40% and our minority students make up over 8% of our population – similar, and in some cases higher, than some of our charter school counterparts, and similar, or close to, individual traditional public schools in our area. Since our waiting list has over 2,300 students on it, and our annual lottery is random, I am not sure how we can change those numbers. But, in order to ensure that anyone who would like the opportunity to attend, we do have free and reduced lunch, busing, and special education services so that we can welcome any student whose name comes up in the lottery.
Your teachers apparently are paid a much high salary than their counterparts in the Nampa system. How much are your teachers paid and how do you do it?
Becky: Our annual salary schedule is as follows:
Year 1 $40,000.00
Years 2 – 5 $45,000.00
Years 6 – 10 $55,000.00
Years 11+ $65,000.00
Max ed/ex 5,000.00
Founding Teachers earn an additional $5,000
How do we do it? Simply, true Harbor Schools (again, what I consider Liberty, Victory & Legacy Charter Schools to be) use their Instructional dollars for teachers, their Classified dollars for EA’s and secretaries, and their Entitlement dollars to pay the mortgage and monthly bills. Additionally, we do not add administrative positions beyond one principal, which requires the principal to wear all the hats that are typically in a school district’s administration building, worn by several paid administrative types. So in my case, while I bring in more money than I am paid, I use those additional dollars for additional educational assistants to work with teachers in the primary grades, therefore having more adults in the classroom to work with students.
More next week and your comments are always welcome.