Guilford County school board discusses bonuses for staff

Piedmont Triad News

GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — Employees have demanded it and now the Guilford County Board of Education has asked Superintendent Dr. Sharon Contreras to make a plan for bonuses.

It comes after several school districts across the Triad are paying upwards of $5,000 to keep teachers and staff in their county.

In a Tuesday night meeting, the board of education voted five-to-four, to direct Contreras and district staff to research paying out a bonus for around 5,600 of the 10,000 employees. It would include teachers and instructional support staff like counselors and media specialists.

“I’m surprised that we haven’t already,” said Tessa Pendley, a teacher at Union Hill Elementary. “My colleagues are leaving the profession and that’s bad for me and bad for my students. Students deserve qualified professional educators.”

Some employees spoke out during meeting for a bonus, especially as they’ve worked through the challenges of the pandemic.

“I think it’s long overdue,” said Amy Harrison, a teacher at Reedy Fork Elementary. “All of our employees from our classified staff to our certified staff, everybody should be included in that bonus because we’ve all been working on the front line of the pandemic since March 2020.”

The board of education was split on bonuses as teachers and staff have received a pay raise in the most recent budget.

“A lot of educators are talking about leaving the system,” said Michel Logan, a teacher at Southern Guilford High School. “Over the past years younger educators have gotten some massive pay raises, older educators have been shortchanged.”

The $300 million from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund has been directed to certain projects like school security and safety, recruiting teachers and more.

Some board members and Contreras said educational improvements in the pipeline may get cut, like counselors or mobile learning buses, for the bonuses.

“We end up in a situation where we’ve robbed long-term sustainable investments that are going to pay off over time to offer sort of broad-based bonuses that don’t make people happy,” said Winston McGregor, the vice-chair of the board of education.

While Contreras is directed to research the possibility of bonuses, she made her recommendation clear at the end of the meeting.

“You’re just going to hurt some other area and that’s fine and I all want us to know we’re going to be crying about this again in a few months,” Contreras said. “There will be no recommendation that does not include, from me, all 10,000 employees, so I do not want anyone to think that the superintendent would pick and choose one employee group over the other.”

Bonuses will be discussed further at the Dec. 14 meeting.

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