Gold star: Clayton teachers may get $2,500 bonus for perfect attendance

Clayton County Schools Superintendent Anthony Smith says teacher pay incentives would be a move to make the district more competitive with its peers. (Natrice Miller/



Clayton County Schools Superintendent Anthony Smith says teacher pay incentives would be a move to make the district more competitive with its peers. (Natrice Miller/

Clayton County teachers could get more than a pat on the back or a gold star from their boss if they have perfect attendance at work during the 2024-25 school year.

In an effort to attract staff and retain those it already employs, the district is proposing to offer teachers who make it to work every day $1,250 per semester, or $2,500 for the year.

Those who miss just one day per semester can earn a $1,000 bonus, while teachers who fall short of perfection by two days a semester will receive $750 during each period.

“We’re working our gut-level best to make certain that we’re the district of choice by making certain we are compensating you appropriately,” Clayton Superintendent Anthony Smith said during a recent hearing on the district’s 2024-25 budget. “We’re making inroads toward that.”

The pitch is the latest by the south metro Atlanta school system to offer more competitive salaries to teachers and other support staff, who increasingly are job hopping between districts for better pay.

It’s the school system’s second proposal on staff salaries, after the Clayton Board of Education rejected an earlier budget package because members didn’t think it was aggressive enough on pay.

“Everybody at this time is spending out of their fund balance,” school board chairwoman Jessie Goree said at a budget meeting in May. “And we need to do something to be competitive.”

Clayton is not the first to offer pay for perfect teacher attendance. The DeKalb County School District offers incentives for teachers who miss two days or fewer, and attendance pay has been offered or considered in school systems in New Jersey, Massachusetts and Texas.

But it has the potential to be an important recruitment tool for a district that has fewer tax dollars to match the pay of competitors, Clayton leaders said. Home values in Clayton are often lower than its more affluent peers, especially on metro Atlanta’s northside. That means Clayton doesn’t collect as much in property taxes, a critical funding mechanism for schools.

For instance, Clayton, which has almost 53,000 students, has a millage rate of 19.60 mills, and its 2025 budget anticipates collecting about $11.3 million per every 1 mill, Bivins said.

In comparison, the 50,000-student Atlanta Public Schools system, while having a slightly higher millage rate at 20.50 mills, collects about $48.5 million per 1 mill.

“So they do have quite a bit more money than we do to spend,” she said.

In addition to perfect attendance pay, Clayton teachers will receive a $1,500 loyalty bonus after the beginning of the school year in August; a $1,000 mid-year salary adjustment increase in January; and a $500 spring break appreciation incentive payment. That is on top of a $2,500 pay increase from the state and an additional $500 from the county.

“The average salary increase, depending on where an employee falls on the salary scale, will be anywhere from 4% to 8% with all the increases to salary,” Bivins said. “When you add the incentives to it, it’s anywhere from 10% to 14% depending on where they fall on the salary schedule.”

Bus drivers and the district’s school nutrition teams will get a 4.1% pay increase as well as the loyalty, spring break and attendance incentives.

The Clayton Board of Education is expected to vote on the package June 24. If approved, the incentives will cost the county an additional $13.8 million.

Smith said the incentives are part of a bigger push over time to boost salaries and align Clayton’s compensation with its peers.

“We’d like to chip away at this year after year after year,” he said.