Two dozen Indianapolis Public Schools teachers selected to be “teacher leaders” at some of the district’s most troubled schools will get $6,000 in extra pay this year, but only after a close school board vote.

On Tuesday, the board approved a nearly $750,000, three-year contract with Teach Plus — a national organization headed up locally by an IPS board member — to pay for the program by a narrow 3-2 vote. Teachers trained over the summer toward a goal of helping fellow teachers improve their skills and boost student test scores, but without leaving the classroom themselves.  The program is called Turnaround Teacher Teams, or T3.

But some board members were confused about why the program was already operating before the contract was formally approved. Sam Odle said the board needed to “tighten up its processes” to make sure other programs aren’t moving forward without approval.

“We’re obligated to follow through on the program,” said Odle, who voted yes. “The people are already doing the work.”

Board members Diane Arnold and Annie Roof joined Odle voting yes. Board members Samantha Adair-White and Gayle Cosby voted no. Board member Caitlin Hannon abstained from voting because she is executive director of Teach Plus Indianapolis. Board member Michael Brown was absent.

In a conflict of interest disclosure form submitted with the contract, it states that “the procurement, administration and execution of this agreement will be handled by the T3 program manager, who is overseen by national Teach Plus staff. Commissioner Hannon will not be involved in payments for this agreement.”

Cosby said she thought the contract was too expensive, and didn’t feel adequately informed about the contract.

“I want to make sure any contract we enter that is growing teacher leadership is sustainable, and truly fostering growth in the teachers that we have,” Cosby said. “From what I read, there was a small percentage going directly to teachers.”

Superintendent Lewis Ferebee said the school board has known about the contract since early spring. The Eli Lilly and Company Foundation donated $1 million in April to get the program off the ground. IPS’s portion of the cost to run the program is $741,579.

“They’re already off the ground running,” Ferebee said. “Tonight really was a prompt to get the teacher leaders in front of the (school board). We’ll have them come in and provide an update.”

The program, which has been tried in other cities including Nashville, gives extra pay to teachers, as well as pays for one-on-one coaching and group professional development to help improve their leadership skills. The two dozen teachers selected are a mixture of returning and new district teachers from IPS School 14, School 44 and School 61, and the goal is to provide experienced teachers financial incentive and a career path to stay and help turn around low-performing schools.

“This is not only a strategy to improve student achievement but also to elevate teacher leadership,” Ferebee said. “The teacher leaders are in place and are very excited about implementation.”