With the Coronavirus Pandemic shutting down over 90,000 schools across the country many school district leaders are facing the same question: Should we compensate our support staff ?
The question about compensating support staff was one of the first thoughts that went through my mind when I realized our schools would be shut down for (at least) the next month. Once it was confirmed that our students would not be required to make up lost time, was my decision was made: we need to pay our support staff during school district closure.
I assumed most (if not all) school districts would use this same approach. However after doing some research it appears that some school leaders are considering all options when it comes to support staff compensation. My guess is that some decision-makers may be wondering why hourly staff should be paid when they aren't doing anything for the district in return.
In my opinion, there are three underlying reasons why support staff should be paid:
The budget is set for the year. Under any other ordinary circumstances we would be paying our support staff during this time. This money is already allocated, and we are a nonprofit organization.
Our support staff are some of our most valuable people. These are the people who make our district run and help our students succeed. Let's start treating them like professionals.
Our support staff rely on a regular income. Taking away a month's worth of pay could be crippling. Staff should be worried about their family well-being, not their financial situation.
I have heard some districts are willing to pay support staff... as long as they complete work remotely. While I can understand this approach, I also realize our support staff do some of the most difficult and most under-appreciated work in our district. I would challenge any school leader to assume the of role of custodian, cook, or paraeducator for a week and see if those individuals don't warrant a well-deserved break. Heck, I filled in as a secretary for half a day and nearly passed out from exhaustion when I returned to my office!
To be fair, our district isn't facing significant budget issues and I don't live in a state with cutthroat high-stakes testing, both of which could impact the role of support staff these next few weeks. However, I do believe school leaders need to shift their mindset from "what can we get from our support staff" to a mindset of "what can we give our support staff" during these stressful and uncertain times.