Richardson ISD approves staff retention stipend, increase to COVID paid leave days

Richardson ISD board members.
The Richardson ISD board of trustees discuss a retention stipend for all staff members during its Jan. 24 meeting. (William C. Wadsack/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Richardson ISD board of trustees discuss a retention stipend for all staff members during its Jan. 24 meeting. (William C. Wadsack/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Richardson ISD board of trustees plans to distribute about $6.1 million in retention stipends to teachers and employees for their dedication to the district through the continuing challenges of the coronavirus pandemic this school year.

The stipends were approved unanimously during the RISD board’s Jan. 24 meeting. Full-time eligible employees will receive a one-time stipend of $1,000, while part-time eligible employees will receive $500.

"I could not be more proud of our community, [and] I could not be more proud of our staff for leaning in and stepping up when our district and, most importantly, when our kids needed it the most," Interim Superintendent Tabitha Branum said. "While our numbers are trending in a very positive way, we know we're not there yet, and our staff will be continued to be asked to do things that are just above and beyond what they would experience in a normal year. I feel strongly that they deserve compensation for what we've been asking them to do."

Trustees also unanimously approved a resolution to provide five additional days of paid leave for staff to use in the event of a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. Those additional days give eligible employees 10 days of paid leave to use for a COVID-19 illness, as the board previously approved five paid leave days in August.

"We feel very strongly that this is another way to show all staff that we see what they're doing [and] how they're supporting our district during this time," Branum said. 'We do not want to cause an unforeseen [financial] burden for our staff [that may have to miss time]. We have to pay for the subs regardless, [so] there's really not a financial investment here. It is more of showing and extending our teachers support during this time."

District officials said the retention stipends will be given to all RISD staff members, including auxiliary staff, classroom educators and central office team members.

"All of our employees are in it for the long haul, but no one could have predicted this," Assistant Superintendent Chris Goodson said. "So just knowing that this is being considered by the board is definitely a positive thing."

RISD Chief Financial Officer David Pate said the money for the stipends will come from funds earmarked for the district as part of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund. That grant funding, known as ESSER, was distributed by the U.S. Department of Education to help address unexpected costs incurred during the coronavirus pandemic.

"I wish we could give more than $1,000 honestly because I feel like [district staff] deserve that for having a really tough year," Board Member Megan Timme said. "I hope that they can feel the appreciation and intent behind this, that they're truly valued. We know our people are our most valuable resource."

In January 2021, the board approved a $750 retention stipend for full-time employees and a $375 stipend for part-time employees. The total cost for last year's stipends was about $4.4 million.

By William C. Wadsack

Editor, Plano

William joined Community Impact Newspaper in December 2019. He previously served as managing editor of several daily and weekly publications in North Texas and his native state of Louisiana.