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WUWM's Emily Files reports on education in southeastern Wisconsin.

MPS considers $250 'thank you' bonus for staff, $100 vaccination incentive for younger students

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Emily Files
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WUWM
A teacher at MacDowell Montessori on MPS's first day of the 2021-22 school year.

As Milwaukee Public Schools employees navigate a year plagued by staff shortages and COVID quarantines, they’re poised to get a one-time “appreciation” bonus.

An MPS board committee Tuesday approved a proposal to give employees a $250 one-time bonus. With more than 10,000 staff qualifying, it would cost upwards of $2.5 million. The district has not said where in the budget the money is coming from.

Chief of Human Resources Adria Maddaleni explained the message she wants the $250 bonus to send.

"This bonus we’re looking at is really to recognize the impact the pandemic has had on our staff and the extra, you know, effort and cost they’ve incurred related to the pandemic," Maddaleni said.

Similar payments have happened in other places, including statewide in Georgia and Florida. They are sometimes referred to as “retention” bonuses. School districts including MPS are struggling this year to fill jobs. Maddaleni said Tuesday MPS has 145 teacher vacancies and 152 paraprofessional vacancies.

School board president Bob Peterson noted the unique stress teachers are under.

"Having to cover extra classes, do extra work, always in fear of getting the virus," Peterson said. "And [we] want to just thank the staff, all staff in MPS for how they’ve been working hard to get us through this pandemic."

MPS’s staff shortage could be exacerbated by its COVID-19 vaccination mandate. HR chief Maddaleni told WUWM last week that employees who don’t show proof of vaccination or ask for an accommodation by Nov. 15 will be put on unpaid leave. MPS has not answered questions about how many staff that is happening to.

The district’s push to get students vaccinated continues. The board is set to approve an $100 incentive for students ages 5-11 who gets vaccinated by Jan. 14. That age group was recently made eligible for the Pfizer shot.

MPS offered the same incentive for older students earlier this year. The district has not said how many students ages 12+ earned the $100 gift.

The student vaccination incentive and employee bonus proposals will go to the full board Thursday.

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