Meeting Street Schools award over 100 teachers bonuses in first year of incentive program

Story by Courtney Williams / July 27, 2021

By Libby Stanford

The Post and Courier, JUL 16, 2021

Meeting Street Schools, the Charleston-based nonprofit organization that runs public-private elementary schools throughout the state, awarded over 100 teachers bonuses for the 2020-21 school year.

The bonuses, which were given based on student performance, averaged around $5,000 per teacher with some receiving as much as $10,000.

They included teachers at all four of the nonprofit’s schools: Meeting Street Academy in Charleston, Meeting Street Academy in Spartanburg, Meeting Street Elementary School @ Brentwood and Meeting Street Elementary School @ Burns, both in North Charleston.

In the past two years, Meeting Street Schools has developed a system to assess student performance, said CEO Christopher Ruszkowski. The 2020-21 school year marked the first in the nonprofit’s initiative to provide annual bonuses based on student performance.

The nonprofit’s schools have a unique funding model. Meeting Street Academy in Charleston is completely privately funded while the public-private elementary schools in North Charleston and Spartanburg are funded through a mix of federal per-pupil dollars and private donations.

Meeting Street isn’t the first school system in the area to provide bonuses — Charleston County School District, Berkeley County School District and Dorchester District 2 all distributed one-time $1,000 bonuses over the school year.

Meeting Street is the first to create an incentive program based on student performance.

In the first year of bonuses, the money came from philanthropic dollars raised by the school system, Ruszkowski said. Going forward, Meeting Street plans to include the bonuses into its base budget, which could mean public dollars will go toward the bonuses at the public-private schools.

Although Meeting Street has the help of private donors, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible for public school districts to implement a bonus system like the one created by Meeting Street.

Ruszkowski pointed to Texas, where a 2019 law established a Teacher Incentive Allotment that allows up to $32,000 per teacher per year based on performance.

“It is possible, and it is happening around the country, that schools and districts are thinking about how to do this innovative work with public dollars as well,” Ruszkowski said.

Meeting Street’s formula for determining how much each teacher received looked at student reading and math scores to assess growth over the school year. Any teacher whose students made over one year of growth received a bonus. Over 100 of the nonprofit’s nearly 200 educators received a bonus over the school year.

Teachers with students who achieved a year and a half to two years of growth received the most money, Ruszkowski said. About a dozen teachers achieved that level of bonuses.

The bonuses were especially important after the teachers spent a year and a half adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We teach every day knowing there will be an end of year assessment to show student growth and achievement, but to have a financial incentive to recognize the growth makes the work all year feel valued and appreciated, which I know is not the same in other school systems,” Kaitlin Payton, a fifth grade teacher at Meeting Street Elementary @ Burns, said in a news release.

Ruszkowski said he hopes the money will help with teacher retention and morale as South Carolina faces a growing teacher shortage crisis.

“There’s never been a more important time to recognize and reward outstanding teaching that is having a dramatic effect on students’ academic results and lives,” Ruszkowski said.

Copyright 2021 The Post and Courier. All rights reserved.


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About Meeting Street Schools

Meeting Street Schools (MSS) is an innovative non-profit where schools, families, and the community collaborate to create environments where all children can achieve their full potential. With a network of schools across South Carolina, including MSA-Charleston (Charleston, SC), MSA-Spartanburg (Spartanburg, SC), MS-Brentwood (North Charleston, SC), MS-Burns (North Charleston, SC), and MS-Jasper & Beaufort (Jasper, SC), we are committed to providing students with the rigorous education they deserve.

Founded on the principle that every child deserves an excellent education regardless of their socio-economic background, Meeting Street Schools has been a beacon of hope and a testament to what's possible in education. Our schools are driven by a strong focus on student achievement, evidence-based instruction, and relentless support of our students and their families.

While united by our shared mission, each MSS campus, is unique in its character, tapping into the local spirit of the communities they serve. Explore each of our schools and discover how they're creating a brighter future for students in South Carolina.

News & NotesFrom Clemson University to Master Teacher and Player Coach: Emily Godwin

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Our Schools

MSA – CharlestonDowntown Charleston, SC - Independent School - Since 2008 - 364 Students

Nestled in the heart of Charleston, South Carolina, MSA Charleston is more than just a school—it’s a hub for innovative learning and community engagement. As part of the Meeting Street Schools network, MSA Charleston embodies a commitment to excellence through its rigorous academic programs, inclusive culture, and focus on developing the whole child. With a curriculum that emphasizes both academic and personal growth, MSA Charleston prepares students to be curious learners and active citizens of their community.

MSA – SpartanburgDowntown Spartanburg, SC - Public School - Since 2012 - 323 Students

MSA Spartanburg stands as a pillar of educational innovation in the Spartanburg community. The school’s dedicated educators and supportive learning environment ensure that each child receives a high-quality, personalized education with exceptional faculty and teachers. MSA Spartanburg is distinguished by its emphasis on community partnership, fostering relationships that extend beyond the classroom to build a strong foundation for lifelong learning and success.

MS – BrentwoodNorth Charleston, SC - Public School - Since 2014 - 694 Students

MS Brentwood is a place where education meets opportunity. Serving the Brentwood area, this school is a testament to the transformative power of education. With a student-centered approach that celebrates diversity and encourages excellence, MS Brentwood is dedicated to equipping students with the skills they need to thrive in the 21st century. MS Brentwood also serves as a hub for the Brentwood community to access educational and wellness services. The school’s commitment to innovation, coupled with a warm, welcoming environment, makes it a standout in the MSS network.

MS – BurnsNorth Charleston, SC - Public School - Since 2018 - 478 Students

Located in a community rich with history and culture, MS Burns is renowned for its dynamic educational approach that intertwines traditional learning with modern teaching techniques. The school’s focus on experiential learning ensures that students at MS Burns are not only recipients of knowledge but also active participants in their educational journey. MS Burns exists to spark an educational revolution for the students and families in the Dorchester-Waylyn Neighborhood in North Charleston. With a commitment to creating a supportive and challenging academic environment, MS Burns is forging a new path in public education.

MS – Jasper & BeaufortJasper County, SC - Public Charter School - Fall 2023 -

MS Jasper represents the Meeting Street Schools’ dedication to community-based education with a global perspective. The school provides a nurturing environment where students are encouraged to explore their potential and cultivate a love for learning. With its diverse programs such as Eureka Math, and Wit and Wisdom, MS Jasper puts a major emphasis on character development, specialized learning and equips students to become thoughtful, engaged members of society, reflecting the MSS ethos of empowerment through education.


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“Meeting Street Academy is my family. They taught me that I am valuable. I am an asset to the world…They asked me, ‘What is your dream?’ I had never been asked that before. The MSS community gives me the strength to pursue my dreams.”

— Kadelyn SteedStudent

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“MSA is a family. Once you’re in, you’re in. They said they would follow our kids from K-3 to college and they actually lived up to what they said they would do. Not only did MSA challenge my daughter academically but it also exposed her to new things that she probably wouldn’t have been exposed to at our previous neighborhood school. Our journey at MSA was exciting and rewarding. They actually walk the walk.”

— Tyeka GrantParent

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“We come into work everyday truly believing that our students are capable of achieving anything that is put in front of them. Here at MSS, students are provided the opportunity to achieve success through the facilitation of well-educated teachers, resources, and a responsive classroom school environment.”

— NikToshia GilesTeacher