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Millcreek Journal

GSD teachers awarded big check bonuses

Jun 21, 2021 02:45PM ● By Bill Hardesty

(L-R) Principal Christopher Griffiths, Ben Horsley, and Clark Nelson, GSD Board member, join in presenting a $5,000 check to Kartia Nash-Handler. (Bill Hardesty/City Journals)

By Bill Hardesty | [email protected]

Starting on April 22 at Olene Walker Elementary School and going to three other locations the following days, selected teachers were awarded a $5,000 bonus. The bonuses were possible because of passing HB 212 in the 2016 Legislative session.

The bill made available special $5,000 bonuses for teachers with high median growth percentiles (MGP) who teach in schools with high student poverty levels. These teachers are in the top 5% of Utah.

“The goal of the legislation is to reduce teacher turnover at high poverty schools and attract and retain teachers whose classroom instruction has proven to be effective in helping students grow academically,” according to a Granite School District (GSD) press release. 

“This bonus program is a result of legislation sponsored by Rep. Mike Winder back in 2016 that provides a retention bonus for high-quality teachers that work in our most impoverished schools,” said Ben Horsley, director of communications and community outreach with GSD.

Horsley pointed out that “Several years ago, Roosevelt Elementary (now Olene Walker Elementary) was the third worst-performing elementary school in the state with 100% teacher turnover in a short period of time. It was clear that we needed a larger incentive to encourage our best teachers to remain in our most needy schools. After several years of this bonus program in place, Olene Walker was recently recognized as having some of the highest student growth in the state and is now outperforming schools with higher socioeconomics with very minor teacher turnover.”

State funds provided about half of the bonus, with the GSD Board of Education ensuring the remaining amount coming from district funds.


Teachers at two schools located in South Salt Lake were honored.

At Olene Walker Elementary, five teachers were recognized. They are Nada Carter,

  1. Kelly Lookinland, Christina Marshall, Lauren Peterson and Camerin Russell.

At Granite Park Junior High School, two teachers were honored—Ashley Cook and Kartia Nash-Handler. Nash-Handler teaches seventh- and eighth-grade math. Cook is on extended leave.

“This award is a result of how much my students apply themselves,” Nash-Handler said.

With every question, Nash-Handler never took credit and always gave her students credit.

“My goal is putting children first,” Nash-Handler said.

She grew up in an economically depressed area, and her teachers became a lifeline for her. Nash-Handler wants to make the same impact.

“I became an educator because I want to impact students like my teachers. I want to inspire them,” Nash-Handler said.

At the GPJHS faculty meeting where the bonuses were announced, Principal Christopher Griffiths said, “Everyone has a piece of this recognition because such success is a team effort.”

Teachers at Robert Frost Elementary and Monroe Elementary in West Valley City were also honored.

Because of COVID-19, the bonuses were based on 2019 data.


The term high media growth percentiles is a mouthful. But what does it mean?

Horsley explained, “It’s a percentage of growth score which means that from year to year, the students these teachers teach, 70%-plus are having higher than average learning and growth. The state uses data from the RISE test, and once the teacher has the high MGP (70 or higher), they then go work for at least a year in an eligible (high poverty) school, and after that year…they receive the bonus.”

For example, in 2017, Marcia Matthews taught at a non-poverty school, and 70% of her students scored higher than the average student. In 2018, the same thing happened. In 2019, Matthews moved to a designated poverty school and taught for an entire year. Matthews receives the bonus at the end of the school year.