The district is asking all staff to not respond to any emails over Christmas break.
UPDATE: Just days after pushing for the bonuses, Wauwatosa School District Superintendent Phil Ertl announced he will retire at the end of the school year.
The Wauwatosa School Board unanimously approved giving $1,000 bonuses to all teachers and administrators at its December 15 meeting. The total cost to the district? $867,000. As part of what they are calling a “Bonus Bundle,” the district is also asking all staff to not respond to any emails over Christmas break, through Jan. 4, 2021.
In a communication with employees, school district officials called it a “one-time Bonus Bundle.” They praised teachers’ “dedication, flexibility and tenacity during what has been a challenging year.” The School Board passed the bonuses unanimously with very little debate.
Along with the bonuses, the bundle includes, according to communication Wisconsin Right Now obtained from school leaders to staff:
- “Recombobulation Wednesday.” Officials said they are providing employees with a “meeting-free and PL-free day on Wednesday, December 16, 2020 to recombobulate.” They wrote that they wanted to “give you the gift of time to create space to prepare mentally.”
- A $100 credit for Recreation Department activities.
- They are also asking all staff to “use their out of office response as a strategy to completely disconnect over Winter Break. This sets the expectation that you will not respond to emails until after January 4, 2021.”
Earlier today, we reached out to Superintendent Phil Ertl regarding the bonuses, but he never responded to our email. The School District lists Christmas Break as Dec. 23 to Jan. 1 on its calendar. Here’s what school officials wrote staff, in part:
During the School Board meeting, Board member Mike Phillips explained that the $1,000 would go to each salaried employee in the district, including “professional staff, administrators and select employees” based on one FTE (full-time equivalent) position.
In addition, some other employees will receive $500 each, including administrative assistants, maintenance workers, and educational assistants.
Those eligible must be working the entire school year and hired before or on Sept. 15, 2020. People on lengthy extended leave, substitute teachers, and seasonal or on-call workers are not eligible.
“The Bonus Bundle is not intended to replace this year’s raises, but is provided as a sincere gesture of appreciation for your hard work, commitment, flexibility and care for our students, families and community. We will continue to attempt to provide raises to our staff, and will provide updates as they become available,” school officials wrote.
Eric Jessup-Anger, the Board president, said of staff and teachers: “We hope this is one way to thank you for all that you’ve done.”
Superintendent Phil Ertl told the Board, “Our staff has gone above and beyond this year. Unfortunately, we’re not in a financial position where we can recommend a permanent increase to the salary schedule at this point. There’s a lot of uncertainty with the state budget.” He characterized the bonuses as a “one-time expenditure.”
In addition, he said that the Recreation Department is giving each staff member a $100 credit and Wednesdays are set aside as work time for teachers to “accomplish what they need to.”
“It’s the right time to do this,” said Ertl. “Is there a risk of spending $867,000? I think there’s a risk of spending anything at any point of time. There’s cost benefit.” He said the bonuses are meant to send a “message to the staff that we certainly are appreciative of the work.”
The bonuses will be processed this Friday, board members were told.