The Warren County Board of Education has approved a series of staff retention bonuses and pay increases that would set $13 as the school system’s minimum wage for full-time employees. The decision came during the board’s Nov. 9 regular meeting.

Interim Superintendent Keith Sutton presented the plans for retention bonuses and pay increases as part of Phase I of what Warren County Schools refers to as its Better Pay Plan.

“We value and appreciate Warren County Schools’ employees,” he said. “We couldn’t serve our 1,734 students without their tireless dedication, flexibility, and endless support. I know that their pay doesn’t even come close to fairly compensating them for their time, energy, and the impact they have on students’ lives.

The increase in hourly wages would apply to all full-time school system employees current earning less than $13 per hour, including bus drivers, custodians, non-instructional and non-licensed school-based staff, child nutrition services, maintenance and operations staff, and transportation mechanics, and also salaried employees who earn the equivalent of less than $13 per hour. The increase goes into effect with this month’s payment.

Sutton told the board that local funding from the county will be used to cover the pay increases, with help from state funding. He said that once the state budget is finalized, wages could be increased.

The plan approved by the board also includes recruitment and retention bonuses for all school system employees. Sutton estimated the cost to the school district at more than $285,000 to be covered by federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funding. He noted that the bonuses are a way to thank school system employees for the extra duties they have taken on during the COVID-19 pandemic.

One-time bonuses for certified staff members (such as licensed staff, Central Services staff and Restart facilitators) will be $1,200 for those employed on or before June 1, 2021, and $600 for those employed on or before Sept. 1. Employees who began working with the school system between June 1 and Nov. 1 will receive a bonus of up to $1,200, prorated based on their start date. The pay day is expected to be mid-January.

Bonuses for classified staff (such as bus drivers, custodians, non-instructional and non-licensed school-based staff, child nutrition services, maintenance and operations staff, and transportation mechanics) will be $600 for those employed on or before June 1, 2021 and $300 for those employed on or before Sept. 1. Employees who started work with the school system between June 1 and Sept. 1 will receive between $300 and $600, prorated based on their start date. The pay date is expected to be Jan. 14. 

Sutton noted that the difference in the bonus amount between certified and classified employees is due to the wage increase for all classified staff members.

Other elements of Phase I of the Better Pay Plan include the following:

• Teachers, Restart facilitators, instructional assistants and others who have been assigned to teach or cover a class this school year that isn’t part of their regularly assigned duties will receive a one-time payment of $250 for extra work between the start of the 2021-22 school year and Oct. 29, to be paid on Jan. 14.

• For extra classes covered after Nov. 1, these employees will receive $25 for each 45-minute class covered and $50 for each 90-minute class covered.

• Bus drivers who covered additional bus routes between the beginning of this school year and Oct. 29 will receive a one-time payment of $250, to be paid on Jan. 14.

• Bus drivers who cover additional routes after Nov. 1 will receive $20 for each additional route covered.

• Bus drivers will receive a personalized hourly pay rate when driving an activity bus for field trips, athletics or other extracurricular activities, to be reflected in the November paycheck.