$3,750 in bonuses for Wake County school workers unanimously approved

Wake County News

CARY, N.C. (WNCN) – Wake County school leaders Tuesday night unanimously approved $3,750 in bonuses for employees and a raise for substitute teachers.

The bonuses for employees will be made in a series of three $1,250 payments for recognition and retention.

Non-certified substitute teachers will now earn $104 a day, which is an increase from $80. Certified substitute teachers will make $130 a day, which is an increase from $103.

The board of education’s moves Tuesday came after several days of protests from bus drivers and cafeteria workers.

“We are overworking and overburdening people in the building,” one member said during a lengthy financial meeting.

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 effort to keep staff comes as cafeteria workers at 32 schools held a sick out on Tuesday, and 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 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.

Officials estimate $80.7 million would be used just for the staff retention bonuses.

While that money comes from the federal funds the district has already received, that money can’t be used to cover the $2.2 million for the increased substitute pay, and other staff compensation.

“That’s a recurring expenditure and once the [federal] funds are exhausted, it would require local funding,” said David Neter, chief operating officer of the Wake County Public School System. “With support staff compensation, those funds would have to be re-appropriated from somewhere. The amount of funding we have is all allocated. If we want to put some more over here, that’s fine, but where are we going to take it from?”

Board of Education Chair Keith Sutton and Superintendent Cathy Moore have already been in talks with Wake County Commissioners about getting additional local funds.

They said while the proposed state budget will help free up some extra money, more needs to be done in Wake County if real change is expected.

“These are recurring costs, and it may impact future asks of the county commissioners, so we want them to be aware of that,” explained Sutton. “[To] have some sense of both when and how much that may impact future budget appropriation.”

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.

The board plans to present a proposal on staff compensation increases during their first December meeting.

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