Employees of Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools will be getting two additional bonuses on top of the $1,000 they will receive in their paychecks at the end of October.
The school board voted on Tuesday to approve a $700 bonus for teachers and certified staff members employed through Dec. 1, to paid on Dec 16. They will get another $700 bonus if they remain with the district through May 1, to be paid on May 31.
Classified staff members, which include nutrition workers, maintenance and bus drivers, will be on the same schedule for their bonuses, which will be $500.
Like other school districts across the country, the local district is facing staff shortages, Jevelyn Bonner-Reed, the chief human resources officer, told the school board at its work session.
“We started to look ahead and think what else can we do to support staff in this challenging labor market and this challenging time, and how can we support them and retain them,” Bonner-Reed said.
Other school districts have been using bonuses as an enticement for employees to stay on the job. Most notably, Davidson County Schools announced last week that it is giving all its fulltime employees a one-time bonus of $4,500.
The local school district is using federal COVID relief dollars to pay for the $1,000 bonuses that employees will get at the end of this month.
The latest round of bonuses, which will total $9 million, will be paid with sales-tax revenue and savings.
The school district has 132 teacher vacancies, up from 90 about a month ago, Bonner-Reed said.
“We’re continuing to see teachers leave the profession, so this is one way to support retention,” she said.
The number of vacancies is about twice as many as last year.
“It’s definitely higher than it’s been over the last three years,” Bonner-Reed told the board. “It’s a consistent trend across the entire country, and we’re competing knuckle for knuckle for teachers and other staff. This time of year, it becomes more about retention. We’re focused on keeping who we have.”
The school district is also having trouble filling all its requests for substitute teachers, with fewer than 70% of requests getting fulfilled, Bonner-Reed said.
Over the summer, the school district hired a contractor, ESS, to manage its substitute program, with the expectation that its “fill rate” would be closer to 90%.
Through the end of September, there were 11,000 requests for substitutes, which is up from 7,000 in September 2019.
In a normal year, ESS could have filled 7,000 substitute requests, she said.
“We’re continuing to work on it,” Bonner-Reed said.
To that end, the school district is recommending that it reduce the minimum number of college credits required to be a non-certified sub from 60 hours to 48 hours.
Most comparable school districts have minimum requirements of 48 hours of college credits. Wake County Schools don’t require college credits but do require teacher training.
By changing the minimum requirements, the school district hopes to add to its pool. It would require subs to go through training with ESS.
The changes would take effect in January if approved by the school board at its next meeting, which was moved from Oct 26 to Oct. 28.
The school board’s policy committee also recommended that the school board change its meeting schedule from one full school board meeting a month to two meetings a month. For nearly two years, the school board has had a work session with four committee meetings on the second Tuesday of the month followed by a full board meeting on the fourth Tuesday.
Superintendent Tricia McManus recommended that each full board meeting be preceded by two committee meetings.
The full school board will vote on the recommendation on Oct. 28. In addition, it will consider adding a briefing on the third Tuesday of the month for more in-depth discussions.