In May 2013, the Lamar County School Board voted unanimously to be one of four pilot school districts in the state to participate in a merit pay program.
Governor Phil Bryant wants the program to encourage more teacher effectiveness through compensation based on performance.
The district awarded the first merit pay checks in December to teachers who qualified.
Nearly 600 other teachers in Lamar County received a merit based bonus. Teachers who received 3.0 or better on the Mississippi Statewide Teacher Appraisal Rubric were eligible for merit pay.
The school district human resources director said the district was given a pool of money and all of it needed to be used.
"About 90% of our teachers qualified. It was based on school and teacher evaluations." said Lamar County School District Human Resources Director Chris Wooten. "There was approximately $340,000 distributed."
Wooten said the district will participate again, but this time around, the merit pay can't be based as much on MSTAR. Also, any money not used in the merit pay program for the 2014-2015 school year can be used for future incentive pay.
"The governor's office determined that the plan didn't work as well as they wanted because we had very few guidelines, so they asked us to participate again in another pilot year," Said Wooten.
The new payout eligibility for staff members will include a MSTAR rating of 3.0 or better, a 95% attendance rating, and they must remain employed in the district.
With the new criteria Wooten guesses that fewer staff members will qualify.
"We need to structure this as a true incentive. It should reward those highest levels of rewards," said Wooten.
Clarksdale, Rankin County, and Gulfport school districts are the other three that agreed to participate in this pilot project.