Carroll County Superintendent Steve Lockard has proposed awarding bonus pay to all system employees for going “above and beyond the normal call of duty” while dealing with challenges of COVID-19 this school year.
Carroll County Board of Education members unanimously agreed with the superintendent’s idea. On Wednesday, Jonathan D. O’Neal, chief operating officer at Carroll County Public Schools, said school system staff has begun the process of working out the details on the bonuses, which would likely be handled via a memorandum of understanding with each of the five collective bargaining units that represent CCPS staff.
O’Neal said CCPS is in “some stage of discussion” on the bonuses with representatives of three of the units so far.
“I am optimistic that those discussions will go well and we will be able to finalize agreements in the next few weeks,” O’Neal said.
Lockard said the cost of the bonuses would amount to several million dollars, which could be taken from the school system’s fund balance.
“I believe the board’s fund balance is healthy enough to support this effort and still leave us in a comfortable position,” Lockard said during comments to the school board at its Jan. 12 meeting. “I can think of no better purpose for a portion of these funds than to recognize and reward our dedicated employees.”
Carroll County school system staff have “given us their fullest commitment throughout this entire pandemic,” Lockard said. “So many people in so many roles have worked hard and gone above and beyond the normal call of duty in various ways … over the last two years.”
In May, the school board approved a $1 million contribution from the Carroll Board of County Commissioners, agreeing to match those funds and provide one-time bonuses to CCPS staff for the 2020-21 school year.
Lockard said school system staff worked with designated employee groups to provide the one-time bonuses to staff “in recognition of service to our system, our students and our community.” Last week, Lockard advocated for another round of bonuses.
“While there may never be a sufficient amount to reflect the level of commitment that we see every day, I do think, overall, the recognition bonuses were well received and certainly well deserved,” Lockard said. “ … We need to once again this year work with our employee groups to provide another recognition bonus to our employees.”
Lockard said this year’s bonuses “might be similar to what school board did in November” when $1,000 bonuses were awarded to contracted school bus drivers and $500 to bus assistants.
Though specific details still need to be arranged, Lockard said he wanted to let all school system employees know and “understand we are aware of their extraordinary efforts again this school year.”
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At the Jan. 12 meeting, school board members unanimously agreed to Lockard’s plan to provide the bonuses.
Board member Patricia S. Dorsey was the first to concur, stating that the school system must “invest in our human resources. We are only able to keep this school system afloat by the efforts of people stepping up to the plate.”
Board members Marsha B. Herbert and Donna M. Sivigny also agreed with Lockard that staff has gone “above and beyond” this school year, and deserve monetary recognition.
Tara A. Battaglia, vice president of the board, said that the pandemic has been “a very trying time for everybody,” and said challenges would continue “for years and years to come regarding COVID, with our kids, the economy … But we do need to give back to our staff as best we can. It’s the best thing we can do.”
Student representative Devanshi Mistry also spoke up to thank school system staff. She said “we, as students, see that staff are literally hanging on by a thread,” and added that bonuses could “go a long way” to showing appreciation for their efforts.
Board President Kenneth A. Kiler emphasized that all staff members were deserving, pointing particularly to food service and maintenance employees as well as bus drivers and assistants.
“We are stretched thin everyplace,” Kiler said, adding that he appreciated Lockard is “bold enough to say ‘let’s do it across the board.’”