Bossier School Board ends attendance stipend for teachers

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By Sean Green, sean@bossierpress.com

The Bossier Parish School Board voted to end its perfect attendance stipend program for teachers at its regular meeting Thursday night.

Many members said they had received negative feedback from teachers regarding the pilot program that rewarded educators who didn’t miss a day each month. Members were in favor of rolling that money out of a performance stipend and into a permanent pay bump for teachers.

Frank Rougeau, Bossier Schools chief financial officer, said the program cost $2.6 million for the 2018-19 school year. 

That far exceeded the budgeted $200,000 to $300,000. 

When asked where the additional money would come from, Rougeau said some revenues came in higher than estimated, which would pay for most of the cost.

“If I had to guess, maybe $500,000 would come out (of reserves)?” Rougeau told board members.

School Board President Shane Cheatham said the program was originally pitched to the board as cost neutral. 

“I’ve gotten quite a few emails from teachers and employees on both sides, and I would like to see us not move forward and use this additional money towards a stipend or raise we can put towards all our employees,” he said. “We’re rewarding people for doing what they’re supposed to do, which is come to work, and when they have sick children or are sick themselves, you’re almost kind of forcing them to come to work. That’s not the best thing if someone has the flu.”

Board Member Mike Mosura added he is against the attendance stipend, explaining that although it sounds like he’s against teachers coming to school, he wants to take that same money and give it back to employees a different way.

“I’m in favor of the same things I’ve pressed on for the last three years — reward these teachers through stipends and end of the year money. We need to take that money, which we know we can come up with because it’s somewhere in this big nasty budget, and give it back to our employees,” Mosura said. “It’s not fair to have these folks miss a day with a sick child or be sick themselves and they miss out on $200.”

Board Member Dennis Bamburg was also in favor of ending the program and going through the budget to find a permanent raise.

“When it was introduced, it was fast and furious and the board had a taste to increase the morale of teachers and we rushed it and we missed it big time,” Bamburg said. “That’s why we need to take a serious, long hard look and go through our budget and figure out a permanent raise for our teachers.”

The Bossier Parish School Board will discuss said budget in a committee meeting next week.

The board has scheduled a Finance Committee meeting for Tuesday, June 11 at 5 p.m. at the Bossier Instructional Center. 

The board has already started looking at a realignment of their budget and the committee will go over the current budget line-by-line.