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Taos teacher rejects $5,000 bonus check from state - The Taos News: News

Taos teacher rejects $5,000 bonus check from state

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Posted: Thursday, July 3, 2014 12:00 am

Last week, Taos High School English teacher Francis Hahn received word the state was awarding him a $5,000 bonus due to his students’ high scores on their Advanced Placement exams.

Hahn, who is the primary breadwinner in his family, says the money would have allowed him and his wife to finally take their honeymoon. But, he says, he won’t accept the check.

On Monday (June 30), Hahn issued a press release in which he listed the reasons he would not accept the bonus from the state Public Education Department. He said other teachers taught the same students, just not the year they took the AP exam, so those teachers should be commended for preparing those students to do well on the exam just as he was.

Hahn also said he did not agree with the fact that faculty and staff who do not teach AP students aren’t eligible for the bonus, and said everyone, including custodial staff, secretaries and administrators play vital roles in students’ education, and awarding bonuses only to instructors who teach AP students is unfair.

“It takes 12 years of frustration, perseverance, thoughtfulness, dedication, and, above all, exceptionally good work on the part of all the staff to get them to the high watermark that they achieve by the time they finish school,” Hahn said in the release. “I cannot, in good conscience, accept a bonus under the false pretense of assuming that our achievements are mine alone. “

In an interview, Francis said that if you ask students, they would say the best teachers are the ones who are engaging and who care about student success. They wouldn’t necessarily point to the teachers under whom they scored highly on tests, Hahn says. Hahn was the only teacher in the district to receive the bonus.

Hahn said awarding teachers in this way is “divisive” and “corrosive.” If the state were to continue offering bonuses like this one, teachers would start competing with one another for advanced placement classes, and teachers who did not receive hefty bonuses would start to resent the ones who did, Hahn said.

He said teachers aren’t Wall Street bankers, and shouldn’t be given incentives like Wall Street bankers.

“The fact that I would need to be motivated to do my job ... is insulting,” he said.

The state Public Education Department announced the initiative more than one year ago. The Taos News asked Larry Behrens via email what other bonuses that state offers teachers and how many teachers statewide received the $5,000 AP bonus, but Behrens’ response to The Taos News did not include answers to those questions.

“While we respect the position of this teacher, we know these efforts are leading the way in helping New Mexico’s students rank first in the nation in Advanced Placement success,” Behrens said in the email.

According to Behrens, New Mexico’s Hispanic students are ranked No. 1 in the nation for success in AP courses and New Mexico’s economically disadvantaged students are ranked No. 2.

© 2015 The Taos News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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  • Allen H posted at 1:26 pm on Fri, Jul 11, 2014.

    Allen H Posts: 7

    Kudos for standing up against the mantra of the teacher's union that teachers deserve raises despite Taos having some of the worst performing schools in the nation. This teacher appears to have his heart in the right place and also appears to be successful at accomplishing something with his students, something else the teacher's union is adamantly opposed to. Great example-- it's about the success of the students, not about the money.

  • russelltsv posted at 6:30 pm on Thu, Jul 10, 2014.

    russelltsv Posts: 21

    Think about food in the stomachs of hungry children with a $5000 state donation to a food bank rather than making a personal, self serving political statement. It IS the children you really care for, rather than your own publicity, no, Mr. Hahn?

  • Hoppy posted at 5:50 pm on Thu, Jul 10, 2014.

    Hoppy Posts: 2

    Part Timer and russelltsv, you are missing the point entirely. It is not what one person might do with $5,000, but how the educational system poorly regards and mistreats teachers.

  • Hoppy posted at 1:47 pm on Thu, Jul 10, 2014.

    Hoppy Posts: 2

    Fortunately for our society there are many ethical, dedicated teachers like Francis Hahn. Unfortunately, most of them have no forum in which they are ever heard. Congratulations to Mr. Hahn for educating the public as to who teachers really are and as to what motivates them. If it were money, this entire country would be without teachers. Mr. Hahn has been heard. I hope that there are more people heeding and understanding, than rejecting and criticizing his words out right. I would have been privileged to have had Mr. Francis as a coworker. I honor you, Francis Hahn.

  • russelltsv posted at 12:48 pm on Thu, Jul 10, 2014.

    russelltsv Posts: 21

    A $5000 donation of state money to a food bank could have ensured that a lot of children in Taos wouldn't have to go to sleep with empty stomachs, AND the teacher could have still gotten his self satisfied photo in the local newspaper. Think with your brain, not your ego.

  • Concerned Taoseno posted at 6:28 am on Wed, Jul 9, 2014.

    Concerned Taoseno Posts: 42

    Francis is a fine teacher and a noble man. While others may have acted differently, I commend him for following his conscience. Bravo Francis Hahn!

  • mentor posted at 7:58 am on Tue, Jul 8, 2014.

    mentor Posts: 6

    Mr. Hahn, congratulations for your candor and rational explanation of your reason for not accepting the bonus. You have not only provided a great example to the students who received instruction from you but also the future students you will teach. Your recognition of the divisive nature of bonus to only AP instructors rather than the whole school staff is phenomenal. Although you are being criticized by others for not accepting the bonus and then donating it for some other cause only adds to the nature of divisive effect you are objecting, I commend you.

  • Fernandez de Taos posted at 1:17 pm on Sat, Jul 5, 2014.

    Fernandez de Taos Posts: 8

    I support Francis Hahn's choice in this situation and I completely agree with and I endorse his reasons for not accepting the $5,000. The Governor's and the PED's approach to NM Education is simply and profoundly wrong.

  • alacran posted at 12:30 pm on Sat, Jul 5, 2014.

    alacran Posts: 2

    Mr. Hahn is an amazing educator. Kudos to him for sticking to his beliefs. Who in the community would like to take up a collection and send Mr. Hahn and his wife on the honeymoon they so deserve?

  • peace lover posted at 10:29 am on Sat, Jul 5, 2014.

    peace lover Posts: 11

    So he's letting the state keep the money . That means more money for the governor to bribe people with. What a waste. He could have rewarded the students with it.

  • russelltsv posted at 4:37 pm on Fri, Jul 4, 2014.

    russelltsv Posts: 21

    Part timer, you are SO right! The "look at what a great guy I am" mentality, stickin' it to The Man, ends up being a very selfish publicity stunt. The money could have been given to the local food bank...total selfishness.

  • Part Timer posted at 11:13 am on Fri, Jul 4, 2014.

    Part Timer Posts: 114

    There was many alternatives the teacher could have done with the money. Give it to the school, less taxes paid, to be used for things like "classroom supplies" - how often is the shortage of basic supplies an issue in schools. He could have donated the money to a charity - always a need for a few extra bucks. Anything like this would have brought at least a few more dollars into the local economy - something that is always an issue. However, at the end of the day - the decision was his - I just think there was better alternatives.

  • russelltsv posted at 7:06 pm on Thu, Jul 3, 2014.

    russelltsv Posts: 21

    Publicity stunt. Take the money and run, kid. Your decision will feel good until the praise is gone, then you will be in a total funk.

  • russelltsv posted at 6:53 pm on Thu, Jul 3, 2014.

    russelltsv Posts: 21

    Martyr syndrome

  • hcegar posted at 8:16 am on Thu, Jul 3, 2014.

    hcegar Posts: 4

    Wow!! This is the kind of teacher I would like every child to have. I am a retired elementary teacher and think this guy deserves more than bonuses. We forget that children spend more time engaged in the school environment than in their own homes. I've known some secretaries, cooks, and custodians who would interact with children in a most positive way. I've always thought that if a student likes coming to school you already have a solid base to start from. Let's not forget the parents whose positive interaction with the school also makes for strong acedemic and social outcomes. Thank you for acknowledging the efforts of all those folks who in some way or another participate in a student's life.