Pitt County Schools has kicked off Teacher Appreciation Week with a plan to give teachers and every school district employee a $1,000 bonus.

The county’s Board of Education voted unanimously on Monday to designate about $4.3 million in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds toward a one-time bonus for more than 3,000 employees in the district.

“This has been a very challenging year,” Pitt County Schools Chief Finance Officer Debra Baggett said. “This would be one way that we could reward the staff for working during this time.”

Personnel would be required to have been employed by the district on May 1, 2021 to be eligible. Employees who are not full time would receive a prorated amount.

Baggett said the funding has to be approved by the state Department of Public Instruction before being awarded, but added that the district hopes to be able to offer the bonus in June or July.

The supplements are part of $98 million in ESSER funds designed to be used to address the effects of COVID-19. Proposed spending of those funds ranges from improvements in HVAC systems to improve air quality to software and supplies to address learning loss.

District 9 representative Benjie Forrest said employees deserved the extra pay for going “above the call of duty during the last 13 months with the pandemic and everything we had to endure.”

“We could say thank you a thousand times, but as they told me years ago, you can’t spend thank yous,” he said. “So I’m glad we’ve got the opportunity to give them actual, tangible results that they can spend and hopefully enjoy.”

School employees could have more money to enjoy if a proposed operating budget wins approval of the county Board of Commissioners this week. The budget proposal, approved Monday by the school board, seeks to increase teacher supplements from 6 percent to 6.5 percent to help Pitt County Schools compete with neighboring districts in recruiting and retaining teachers.

The budget proposal also include 2.5 percent increase in local teacher and assistant principal salaries and a 2 percent increase in classified employee salaries. All are dependent on state approval.

Also on Monday, the board rejected a proposal to add canopies at Chicod School. The board voted 7-2 against Forrest’s request to add coverings when new sidewalks are added at the school this summer. District 6 representative Worth Forbes voted with Forrest in favor of adding canopies.

“It (absence of shelter) really does hinder those kids,” Forbes said. “A kid getting in a classroom wet all over, that’s not conducive to learning that entire day.”

Chicod is among nearly a dozen schools in the district that do not have covered areas at car and bus drop-offs and over sidewalks leading to their entrances.

In other business, the school board:

Heard a complaint from parent Chris Powell that Pitt County Virtual Academy plans to offer online instruction next school year to grades four-12 only. Pitt County Schools Public Information Officer Jennifer Johnson read Powell’s letter to the board because public attendance at school board meetings continues to restricted to viewing on livestream due to COVID-19 social distancing requirements. Powell’s letter asked that younger students be considered for the virtual academy so they could avoid potential exposure to COVID-19 in schools.

  • Approved a contract to upgrade software on the school district’s building security systems. The district plans to pay N.C. Sounds of Goldsboro approximately $335,000 to set up Milestone Camera Software for use.
  • Approved a request from Pitt Community College to reappoint Patti Sanders-Smith and Don Mills for another 4-year term to serve as Pitt Community College Board of Education appointed Board of Trustees.

Contact Kim Grizzard at kgrizzard@reflector.com or call 252-329-9578.