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West Fargo approves one-time retention bonus for all teachers, staff

West Fargo Public Schools considers all staff, including bus drivers, as educators in the plan.

Thumbnail - Some West Fargo Schools open libraries throughout summer thanks to grant
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WEST FARGO — West Fargo Public Schools is not just giving a one-time bonus to all teachers, but also to all staff, as a way for the district to show its appreciation for the work they have done while continuing to grapple with a workforce shortage.

The West Fargo School Board voted unanimously Monday, Sept. 12, to give full-time educators, or those working more than 30 hours per week, a one-time bonus of $500. Part-time employees will receive a $400 bonus. Substitute educators involved with the district in both the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 school year will also receive a $250 stipend.

"I want to be clear that, when we use the term educators, that includes anyone that works for West Fargo schools. So, anyone that has been doing the work during the workforce shortage and anyone that has been helping fill in for bus drivers and anywhere there has been a need," Superintendent Beth Slette said.

The district will pay for the bonuses through the use of ESSER Funds, or federal grant money the district received as part of COVID-19 relief.

Business Manager Levi Bachmeier said the bonuses will cost the district "well over $1 million," but they will not be paid for by any property tax dollars.

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"This is a substantial investment in the educators of West Fargo, but we feel it's within the district's financial means," Bachmeier said.

He added that the bonuses may not be as high as other government entities have offered employees, but the district continues to grapple with staying competitive when hiring staff.

"Those are one-time funds that we are not able to use for ongoing permanent salary and benefits," Slette said of the federal dollars. "We've been looking for ways to take care of our educators."

The roughly $4 million per year for three years of ESSER Funds is being used by the district in a variety of ways, such as hiring floating substitutes to help address the substitute teacher shortage or hiring targeted interventionists working to support students through academic and behavioral challenges.

Human Resources Director Brittnee Nikle said the bonuses will be given to educators by the holiday break of this year.

READ MORE FROM WEST FARGO EDITOR WENDY REUER
WEST FARGO — After seeing a dramatic increase in premium costs year after year, West Fargo Public Schools plans to change its health insurance plans in order to spend less money on the benefit and invest more into staff salaries.

Readers can reach West Fargo editor Wendy Reuer at wreuer@forumcomm.com or 701-241-5530 . Follow her on Twitter @ForumWendy .

As the West Fargo editor, Wendy Reuer covers all things West Fargo for The Forum and oversees the production of the weekly Pioneer.
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