RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The Wake County School Board approved a retention and recognition bonus for nearly all employees during Tuesday’s school board meeting.

The bonus comes in the form of three $1,250 payments, paid out in January, May, and November of 2022, totaling $3,750. Earlier this month, the board approved a separate $1,250 bonus.

Grant Bess, who teaches 7th grade, said bonuses are great, but he wants to see better salaries.

“I can’t put that towards a mortgage. I can’t put those numbers on anything that matters,” Bess said. “Bonuses are going to be money in my pocket, but it’s not gonna be enough to keep me in the school district, it’s not gonna be enough to keep me here in North Carolina if I can’t count on those dollars coming in the future.”

The bonuses will cost $80 million. The district said it will be paid for through federal ESSER funds.

The effort to keep staff comes as cafeteria workers at 32 schools held a sick-out on Tuesday — and it could happen again on Wednesday. Some of those employees showed up to Tuesday’s meeting with “Cafeteria Crew” shirts and signs advocating for better pay. Ana Stratis is a cafeteria manager and she was part of the sick-out.

“It really hurt that we were a part of that because we do not want any child to go hungry, and the reason we did this is because we know no child will go hungry, we knew everyone, especially the community, would step up to get all these children fed, but we need to have a big impact,” Stratis said.

One group will be getting a raise — substitute teachers.

The board approved raising non-certified pay from $80 to $104 a day and certified pay from $103 to $130 a day. According to a WCPSS spokesperson, the district had subs for 57 percent of absences during last week’s three-day week.

CBS 17 asked the district how many substitute vacancies it had. A WCPSS spokesperson said there is no set number of vacancies and hiring is ongoing, adding the district has more than 2,500 approved subs, but it’s not enough to fill all daily needs.

There will be a proposal on staff pay increases at the first meeting in December.