By Richard Sullins |

Santa will arrive in Sanford on December 5 this year with the annual Christmas Parade sponsored by the Central Carolina Jaycees. But if you’re an employee of the Lee County Schools district, look for his arrival just before Thanksgiving.

The school board voted unanimously on October 11 to provide a one-time $2,000 bonus to all full-time employees, both teachers and classified staff, who work between six to eight hours per day.

The plan impacting full-time employees is an across the board fixed-dollar amount and not a percentage based on salary. All permanent part-time employees (teachers and staff) who work less than six hours per day will receive a prorated share of the bonus.

Prorations of the salaries for part-time employees (who work less than six hours per day) will be made based on a comparison with full-time employees who work in similar positions. The bonuses will be paid to the district’s approximately 1,400 employees by Thanksgiving break in November and can also be used as a recruitment incentive for new teachers and staff until February 1, 2023.

School Superintendent Dr. Andy Bryan told the board the purpose of the bonus is to incentivize staff to stay with the district through the school year, so any employee who receives the supplement and leaves the district prior to June 20, 2023, will be required to pay back a prorated portion of the bonus.

Funding for the bonus payments will come from federal Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief dollars provided as part of three COVID relief packages that have been enacted by Congress. The total cost to Lee County Schools to implement the plan is $3.7 million, of which $900,000 goes to pay Social Security and retirement required of state-paid employees.

The school board crafted a similar plan last year, making $2,000 payments to employees just before the Thanksgiving break. But unlike last year, the 2022 program will not include longevity, or “legacy,” payments in addition to the one-time bonus.