RISD’s budget was adopted in June. It provided for compensation increases for all eligible employees, Superintendent Jeannie Stone said. Classroom teachers saw raises ranging from 3.5% to 5% depending upon years of service.
Since then, Stone and other administrators have discussed more ways to benefit educators. Two proposals were presented and approved at the Aug. 12 meeting.
One included a one-time $500 stipend for teachers of record to help them purchase materials and supplies for their classrooms. Teachers of record are those who are employed in RISD as of the first day of school Aug. 15.
Although each campus budget provides money to pay for materials and supplies, teachers report there are never enough funds to cover expenses, according to meeting documents.
“Supporting teachers in this manner supports all of the board’s objectives and communicates to teachers that their hard work and commitment is valued,” meeting documents read. “This payment will serve a valuable public purpose of supporting teachers, improving staff morale, and encouraging retention.”
RISD surveyed more than 1,375 teachers, and 100% of respondents said they personally pay for classroom materials out of their own pockets, Stone said.
“Fifty-two percent of them, if they were a veteran teacher, reported that they spend $250 or more, and 12% of them said that they definitely spend over $500,” Stone said. “First-year teachers ... 65% reported that they spend $250 or more with 32% reporting that they had spent over $500 already. This is just to get their classrooms ready.”
This will help alleviate some of that burden, Stone said. The stipend was approved strictly for the current year, but it will be something the district will consider in future years if funding is available.
The board also authorized an increase in stipends for teachers and classroom aides in RISD’s centralized special education programs. Stone said educators in these programs are responsible for some of RISD's "most fragile or high-needs students with disabilities."
“We have found in looking over the last year’s data that we also have issues with turnover in these positions—in particular our paraprofessional areas," she said. "It makes it really difficult to maintain consistency with our students who have the highest needs.”
Previously, centralized special education program teachers received a stipend of $2,000, and classroom aides did not receive a stipend at all. Now, centralized special education program teachers will get a stipend of $4,000. Their classroom aides will receive $1,500.
This was a gap between RISD and other school districts that needed to be addressed, board President Justin Bono said.
In total, the stipends will cost the district nearly $2 million, Stone said. Of that $2 million, $600,000 will go toward stipends for centralized special education program teachers and aides, which—unlike the classroom stipends—will be a recurring expenditure for RISD.
Both stipends were unanimously approved with a 7-0 vote.