As the 2020-2021 school year has wrapped up, it’s been a difficult year for teachers and school staff.
From learning how to teach in a virtual classroom to preparing meals that will be taken home to students, extra cleaning protocols, adjustments for bus drivers, establishing new ways to reach students that need special education and much more, the past school year has produced many challenges for those who work in the school system.
That’s what led the Russell County Board of Education to unanimously approve a one-time supplemental pay increase for full-time school district employees amounting to $1,200.
The recommendation from Russell County Schools Superintendent Michael Ford was that the one-time pay increase would be passed as an amendment to the school district’s 2020-2021 Certified and Classified Salary Schedule, so it only applies to the 2020-2021 school year.
“This was in recognition of all of our school employees’ hard work during this school year in the COVID-19 pandemic,” Ford said.
The pay increase will be prorated for employees who left or joined the school system in the middle of the year, Ford said.
The school district is working with the state retirement system on the one-time pay increase and that requires a lot of paperwork, Ford said, but school employees could see the supplemental pay as early as June 18, although Ford said that could change.
The board heard from many individuals in the school system about the challenges that were faced during the year.
Salem Elementary School Principal K.J. Webb and Russell Springs Elementary Principal Rene Gossage spoke about the challenges that teachers in their schools faced with remote learning.
“All of our teachers have worked really hard this year, our assistants, everyone are appreciative of this consideration,” Gossage said.
“Between our food service workers, our bus drivers, our aides, and our classroom teachers and everyone else, this year has been tough but everyone has stepped up, and they’ve met the challenge,” Webb added.
Special Education Director Sandra Dick spoke about the challenges that the district’s special education teachers faced.
“In my department, we’ve had to try to do evaluations and timelines,” Dick said. “We’ve had therapists trying to do speech, occupational, and physical therapy. The teachers have really had to dig into their toolbox and try to come up with ways to reach these students in a difficult time.”
“I’d like to thank all of you on behalf of the special education department,” Dick said. “I think it’s very important for the morale of our employees.”
Food Service Director Keith Emerson said this year has been a challenge unlike any other with food service staff working to have meal pickups at each elementary school and delivering meals to students’ homes.
“I’d like to thank you all for considering this,” Emerson said. “Our food service employees have worked really hard. They’ve not stopped all year long, and I know they would be very appreciative of this.”
Ford reiterated his appreciation for the work school employees have done this year.
“It’s no doubt that our employees have went above and beyond,” Ford said. “We greatly appreciate all that they’ve done.”