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Colony Brands Foundation offers incentive to Monroe teachers
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MONROE - Teachers can win unspecified amounts of money - to use as they please - starting next year under a new recognition program by the Colony Brands Foundation.

The five-year pilot program will grant awards totaling up to $20,000 each year to teachers in the Monroe school district. A selection committee will decide each year how many awards to grant and how much each grant will be worth.

Kim Markham, Colony Brands community relations director, announced the program, which will start in the 2017-18 school year, at a recent Monroe school board meeting.

It's purpose is to help the district attract and retain good teachers, Markham said. The program will recognize teachers who "achieve high quality, positive results in the district," according to a letter from the foundation posted to the district's website.

"Our hope is that this program encourages and inspires teachers to continue their pursuit of excellence in the district, specifically in the areas of student achievement and growth," Markham said, reading a prepared statement to the board. "Ultimately, we hope that the strong academic preparation and wonderful opportunities that we have in this community will bring students, past and present, back here as our next generation of community leaders."

School board treasurer Brian Keith said he and the rest of the Employee Relations Committee tried and failed to create a similar type of performance incentive for educators while developing the new compensation schedule.

"So for Colony Brands to get it together, I'm extremely grateful. I think the rest of the board is extremely grateful," Keith said. "I think the key is that as a district, we have limited resources that we can pay teachers ... and this is just one more way that, hopefully, we really can keep the best and the brightest."

Anyone can nominate a teacher for the program, including other educators, students or community members. Teachers can also apply directly.

Nomination forms for the first year are due by Dec. 15. Then, nominees and others wanting to be considered will need to submit an application, complete with an essay and one letter of recommendation, by Jan. 12. Winners will be announced in spring, but they won't get their awards until December of next year, according to the letter.

The annual awards cycle will begin with nominations in one school year and end with award distribution in the following school year, meaning teachers will have to be employed by the district both years to receive an award. It's a detail Ron Olson, the district's business manager, said he hopes will keep teachers from leaving Monroe.

Another mechanism of the program that might keep educators around: Those who win awards are eligible to apply again. In fact, the letter says teachers are encouraged to apply every year.

There are no requirements on how the money can be spent, Markham said, and any rubric the selection committee uses to choose award recipients will not be public.

Nomination forms and applications can be found at

Colony Brands Foundation regularly donates to the Monroe school district, most notably committing $400,000 for technology over four years starting in 2013.

"I'm a firm believer that the success of our community is a collaborative effort between the school district, the local businesses and the local government," said board member Rich Deprez, "and I'd just like to say thank you to Colony Brands for leading by example there."