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North Little Rock School Board to look at covid pay

Compensation proposed for on-site work in district by Neal Earley | November 8, 2021 at 7:12 a.m.
Third grade teacher Marla Edwards staples letters up on a bulletin board while preparing her classroom on Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021, at Lakewood Elementary School in North Little Rock. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Thomas Metthe)

The North Little Rock School Board is considering a proposal that would give school staffers a one-time compensation payment for in-school work during the 2021-22 year.

During a special School Board meeting Thursday, Finance Director Brian Brown called the proposal "additional pay for additional duties during the covid-19 pandemic."

If the proposal is approved, then each employee will get an extra $15.27 for every day worked on-site. District employees would be eligible for the compensatory pay for up to 178 "student contact" days.

To be eligible for the pandemic pay, staffers would have to sign a statement saying they had to perform extra duties because of the pandemic.

Employees who would be eligible for the pandemic pay include teachers, aides and administration, nutrition, technology, maintenance, custodial, transportation and other staffers.

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"A custodian may be cleaning extra, or doing extra cleaning; a teacher may be monitoring social distancing. All of those activities qualify," Brown said.

The school district would fund the proposal with federal money from the recent stimulus package passed by Congress. The money would come specifically through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Fund program.

The pandemic pay can only go toward compensating staffers for work related to distribution and caused by covid-19.

Only school district staffers still employed on May 22 will be eligible for the pandemic pay, as a way to incentivize employees staying with the district.

The proposal mirrors a previous plan that paid staffers for pandemic work for the previous school year. The Little Rock School District and the Pulaski County Special School District, among others, also approved similar pandemic pay plans for their staffs.

The School Board will vote on the proposal at its Nov. 18 meeting.

In addition, the North Little Rock School District is considering a salary increase for staffers after similar proposals in the Little Rock and Pulaski County Special districts.

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Representatives from the Licensed Personnel Policy Committee presented a plan to the School Board on Thursday about the raise in salary.

Carolyn Jackson, chair of the committee, said a teacher-salary increase of $4,000 would help the district recruit and retain more teachers.

"We currently have unstaffed positions even this far into the school year where we have classrooms with no permanent teacher," Jackson said. "They're led by subs, and that is something that happens every year."

Jackson said pay for teachers in the school district is behind the Little Rock and Pulaski County Special school districts, both of which recently approved pay increases.

Board member Angela Person-West pushed back on the proposed raises, saying teachers' pay increases should be linked to student performance.

"Even though teachers are financially behind the eight ball, we're kind of turning out students who are behind the eight ball also," she said. "So to me, raises merit -- or kind of go along with --performance."

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Board President Cindy Temple said the district is "at least a year out" from the pay increases that teachers are asking for because the district is reeling from other issues, including declining enrollment.

"We've known we've had a problem for a long time," Temple said. "And I know for a fact that some of the teachers that left were excellent teachers and did not leave for money. They left for other reasons, because we've had a mess down here in this school district for a long time."

Person-West said she is hopeful the two sides can come to an agreement "somewhere in between."

The School Board could vote on the salary-raise plan at the Nov. 18 meeting.

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