As the chaotic school year comes to a close, a handful of administrators and nurses were awarded sizable bonuses for working through the pandemic, leaving teachers reeling over their “thank you”—a literal token.
Superintendent Scott Ziegler distributed challenge coins to all teachers as a memento for working through one of the most trying times in the district’s history. With an ever-changing distance learning plan, social justice upheaval, and the eventual return to classrooms, teachers confronted unanticipated challenges and uncertainty daily.
In a letter to teachers, Ziegler said the coin “symbolizes this year’s work to bridge the gaps, caused by the effects of the pandemic, to educate our students in distance learning, and to transition to hybrid learning. It symbolizes our work rebuilding and reinventing systems to feed our students even when they were learning at home. It represents all of the ways we reinvented our school activities, clubs and sports, so students could continue to participate in a year of uncertainty.”
On the coin is an image of the John G. Lewis Memorial Bridge on Featherbed Lane near Lovettsville.
Many teachers were left wondering why they didn’t receive COVID bonuses, as many members of the faculty did. Last week, the School Board approved a slew of bonuses as part of its efforts to distribute the division’s year-end surplus. Nine top administrators received a $1,000 per month prorated bonus totaling $105,600. Hundreds of county vaccination staff received $2,000. Principals, assistant principals, deans, counseling directors, academies coordinator, and academy directors received $2,000. The bonuses in total cost the district $1,630,848.
Board member Denise Corbo (At Large) strongly opposed giving administration bonuses. In an email sent to Ziegler obtained by Loudoun Now, Corbo expressed discord with the large administration bonuses before they were approved in June 8th’s School Board meeting.
“(The motion) will resonate negatively for teaching staff who carried the majority of the load this year… Is there another way to use the $3m other than administrators?” Corbo asked.
Corbo proposed $500 quarterly bonuses for teachers working in classrooms with students who could not properly distance or wear masks. However, the plan was significantly altered by the board members’ suggestions, and ultimately, very few front line teachers saw bonuses.
Although there was no end-of-year bonus warded to teachers across the board, the School Board did approve bonuses, stipends, and extra pay for staff members several times throughout the pandemic. A division spokesman said a comprehensive list detailing those were not available.
Many states and school districts have awarded teachers bonuses for working through the pandemic. In Utah, teachers received a $1,500 bonus. The proposed North Carolina budget includes a $2,000 bonus. Here in Virginia, the Prince William County School Board is considering a $1,600 bonus for teachers—a nod to the hazardous conditions staff worked through this school year.
“Had we given given a bonus like Prince William County is considering in addition to the coin, it would have made a meaningful impact,” Corbo said to Ziegler.
“It feels like a slap in the face that we were going in and working in the classrooms, and we didn’t get a bonus,” said one county high school teacher.
Carla Wallace, a Loudoun elementary school teacher, said that some of the bonuses were inappropriate, but that the coin was a nice gesture from Ziegler.
“I know they’re angry about the bonus, and we haven’t been recognized enough and a coin doesn’t cut the mustard,” Wallace said.
“I’m very disappointed how everyone is complaining about the coin. I like Dr. Ziegler. I think he’s trying to do something nice and supportive and recognize us,” she said.
Wallace said that the nurses were deserving of the bonuses they received after ensuring that the vaccine was distributed smoothly. Her biggest concern was that cabinet members—the superintendent and highest-level administrators—got bonuses.
“They’ve met virtually and we [teachers] were boots on the ground,” she said.
The staff and administrator bonuses were approved at the June 8 School Board meeting.