In a challenging staffing environment amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Madison School Board approved a new bonus pay opportunity for about one-third of district staff members.
The board unanimously approved increases to daily and long-term substitute pay and end-of-the-month bonuses for other staff that show up for work at least 85% of their work days each month. The bonuses are effective through June 17, 2022.
“We are recognizing that we have a crisis in staffing right now in many areas,” district chief financial officer Ross MacPherson told the board Monday. “This proposal is a way to acknowledge that COVID wasn’t just a last year thing, we’re still trying to climb out of it and get back to a more realistic way of working.”
Two groups of employees would be eligible for a $250 end-of-month bonus: substitute support staff — special education assistants and education assistants — and school security assistants who work 20 or more days per month. Nurses and nursing assistants who work an average of 20 hours per week for a month would receive a $500 bonus at the end of each month.
Teachers would also receive additional hourly pay for each class taught during a teacher’s prep time, making their normal hourly rate instead of the “standard rate” of $22 per class taught during prep time.
“We’re trying to be humane in that we know a lot of teachers are losing a lot of planning time than they otherwise would” amid a shortage of available substitute teachers, MacPherson said.
Some of the funding will come from savings because of that substitute shortage, MacPherson said, with funds coming from the budget for substitute teachers.
Board members stressed that this is a “short-term” fix, wanting to ensure staff understood it would not necessarily continue into next year. Madison Teachers Inc. also acknowledged that in a Facebook post following the vote, noting that these are “one-time adjustments for the remainder of the current school year.”
“While the initiative isn’t perfect, it is a short term strategy in support of a long term campaign for economic justice (fair pay), for all in our community,” MTI wrote. “The American Recovery Plan (ARP) and the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds (ESSER) provide a tremendous opportunity to begin to address chronic staffing and workload issues that have worsened since the pandemic.”
Some board members said they wanted to expand the bonus opportunity to bilingual staff members. While superintendent Carlton Jenkins said he was open to having staff explore that, the cost and details would take time to work out and he said the staff members in the proposal needed it sooner rather than later.
Board members agreed.
”It’s really urgent to be able to meet the needs of students and not burn out the staff that we have,” board member Christina Gomez Schmidt said.