During Gov. Kim Reynolds’ state of the state address in January, the governor promised to use federal pandemic relief funds to award retention bonuses to teachers who stayed on during the pandemic. . She called it a way to say “Thank you.”
However, those $1,000 retention bonuses paid for by the elementary and secondary school emergency relief funds were not paid to all school employees. Bus drivers, janitors, librarians, school counselors, school nurses, food service workers and associates were excluded.
Branwyn Greathouse, chief negotiator for the Fort Dodge Education Association, spoke to the school board of the Fort Dodge Community School District at its Monday night meeting.
“All teachers who taught in person this year received the bonus in their March paycheck,” she says. “However, 29 teachers, including our pedagogical coaches and counselors, were excluded… the nurses didn’t even make that reduction.”
A total of 36 staff on FDEA teaching contracts have been barred from governor bonuses, Greathouse said.
“Every employee who touches the lives of our students and families is essential,” she said, noting vacancies in the district and the number of teachers and staff leaving the district.
“We need to come together to make sure the people of our district know they matter and that their hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed,” Greathouse continued. “May each individual who works in our school district contribute to the continued growth and success of our students.”
Later in the meeting, the school board discussed reviewing additional staff retention pay for staff who were excluded from the initial bonus. The board unanimously agreed that the excluded staff should receive the $1,000 bonus. However, there was a split on whether to issue the bonuses immediately or wait until the fall.
The brief debate centered on whether bonuses were a “Thank you” to staff, or if they were a retention tool to keep staff in the district.
“We have a statewide labor shortage and we have staff recruited from other companies because our staff are awesome,” said board vice-chair Lisa Shimkat. “Since we’re using taxpayers’ money, I’m looking at it more on the retention side…so we’re not paying someone when they go out, we’re paying someone to come back.”
Board member Angie Tracy had a different view, saying she thought bonuses should be paid now as “Thank you” for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Board member Matt Moritz agreed.
“Based on the words used by the governor, I agree that even though it’s labeled as ‘retention’, it’s clearly affected and the governor has made it clear that it was a thank you,” he said.
After a brief discussion, Diane Pratt, member of the board of directors, proposed to pay the bonuses in the fall. The motion passed 4-2, with Tracy and Moritz as the two dissenting votes.
The $1,000 retention bonus will be paid based on each staff member’s full-time equivalency. Full-time staff will receive the full $1,000, while part-time staff will receive $500. Bonuses would be paid from the district’s regular program fund.