By Richard Sullins | firstname.lastname@example.org
Bonuses for Lee County Schools educators were one of the only relatively non-controversial items on the agenda in what was an otherwise largely contentious meeting of the school board Tuesday night.
Republican Board Member and Finance Committee Chair Pamela Sutton presented details of an Employee Retention Bonus Plan that would provide an additional $2,000 bonus for all certified and classified staff, and up to $2,000 for substitute teachers, with an amount to be calculated based on the number of days they’ve spent in the classroom.
Substitutes would fall into one of four groupings based on their time of service, with the lowest receiving a $500 bonus, the next group getting $1,000, a third group receiving $1,500, and those with the highest amount of service getting the full $2,000. New employees coming on board in January or February would be paid in those months, respectively.
Superintendent Dr. Andy Bryan said that federal funds from the ESSER (Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief) program, part of the $2.2 trillion in funding provided by the CARES Act passed in March 2020. The program is designed to provide relief to elementary and secondary schools that suffered significant impacts from the effects of COVID-19.
The plan will cost $3,313,434.60 for all certified and classified employees, and another $170,715.60 for the substitutes. The total cost for the bonuses is $3,484,150.20.
A secondary purpose of the program is to help retain teachers and employees who have been under tremendous strain since the pandemic began 21 months ago. One factor in offering such financial incentives is that teachers can see other school districts in surrounding counties doing the same.
Bryan said during the Finance Committee’s meeting on December 8 he believes it’s “very important for us to retain our employees and also show them appreciation for all their hard work during the school year and the pandemic. This is another way we can do that.”
Republican Board Member Sherry Womack raised a question why district administrators would be eligible to receive the bonus, comparing it to military combat pay and saying “we are providing bonuses with this to people who were not necessarily in a ‘combat-type’ environment.”
Womack, who ultimately voted for the measure, questioned whether some administrators at the district office who make $80,000 or more per year actually deserved the bonuses because they weren’t “in the trenches” as the battle against the virus was being fought.
In the end, the bonuses were approved by a unanimous vote and will be paid to teachers and staff before the Christmas holiday break.
Sadly what wasn’t discussed and voted on is allocating funds from the ESSER that will actually create a safer place for the students and faculty. Nothing was discussed or voted on to reduce the spread of COVID and other viruses. NOPE, they just took COVID emergency funds and lined the pockets of teachers and administrators that have been getting paid and had no economic suffering for the last two years. Yep, that is what just happened, no talk of installing mechanical systems that kills or neutralizes viruses, no talk of improving HVAC systems to reduce the spread of viruses. Nope. Just throwing COVID Emergency funds away and giving money to people that have had no negative economic impacts from COVID like the students and their families have because the schools closed and they all had to stay home and parents lost their jobs or had to quit their jobs. Nope No plan to keep the schools open and getting kids out of their masks. Nope, just giving money away to people that just got a pay raise. This is why Lee County has such a low standing in academic ratings. Instead of using Emergency funds that allow the teachers to actually go to work and not shut down the school because they are afraid of catching a virus with a 99% survival rate. They just give them a bonus and waste an opportunity to improve the schools and the school infrastructure. This is wasted money. Teachers deserve to be paid more, not from emergency funds to combat a pandemic. That money should be used for Pandemic specific issues. Giving bonuses to people that didn’t have any economic impacts is wasted funds. Until this county gets their priorities right, we will continue to be on the bottom rung of the academic latter.
Very well said…I am getting exhausted with it all, so it is appreciated that other people comment and do speak for the majority of us. I have no clue how these people get voted in, I really don’t. But hopefully the blatant corruptions in front of our noses now will be notice and people will get out and vote when able. It is that simple. You are absolutely right. I have been saying similar things. Get the lights, air systems, metal detectors plugged back in, and get to the business of educating our kids!!!
Thank you Ms. Womack for trying to be responsible with the money our taxes have to pay back. And I appreciate those that stood up at the meeting that are standing for our school system. The superintendent is a lucky man….but it is typical now that people get jobs they don’t really deserve….very typical.
Sanford continues to make all of the other big brother liberal cesspool cities so very proud!!!