SOMERTON – Nearly $1.2 million will be split up among educators and other staff at elementary schools in Somerton and San Luis, Ariz., as incentives for academic programs.

The state is awarding the money through its Results-based Funding program to the staffs of the schools in the Somerton and Gadsden elementary school districts based on scores achieved by students in 2018-19 on the AzMerit test that measures academic progress. The funds are take-home pay to be split up among teachers, teachers’ aides, principals and other certified and classified staff at the schools.

In the Somerton district, Tierra del Sol Elementary School will receive $319,094, while Desert Sonora Elementary will get $107,742, El Encanto Elementary will receive $96,723 and Orange Grove Elemnary will get $91,174.

In the Gadsden district, Desert View Elementary School will receive $262,646 as its share, while Cesar Chavez Elementary will receive $146,266 and Arizona Desert Elementary will get $138,039.

Each school’s share of funding depended on how high it ranked among all Arizona schools whose students took the AzMerit test, with schools ranking in the top 13 percentile receiving $440 per student.

Staffs of four of five schools in the Somerton district received the funding.

“This is proof that what we are doing is working throughout the district and not just one school in particular,” Somerton Superintendent Laura Noel said.

Eighty percent of each school’s funding share goes to teachers as take-home pay, with another 10% going to instructional aides, Noel said. The remaining 10% goes toward school needs directly related to instruction.

“None of those funds (goes for) district administration. Everything goes to the schools and to the staff involved in instruction, who made it possible for this to happen,” Noel said.

Lizette Esparza, now principal at San Luis Middle School, was principal at Arizona Desert in the year for which it is receiving the money. “We are very excited,” she said. “Our teachers deserve it. To be among the highest scoring school is something that is really big for our district.”

Desert View Elementary fell in the 13th percentile among the highest scoring schools, while Cesar Chavez and Arizona Desert fell within the top 27 percentile.

The money will be paid out in two installments in 2021.

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