Cherokee County school board approves employee bonuses

The Cherokee County school board approved bonuses for teachers and support staff last week.

The one-time payments are $1,000 for eligible full-time employees and $500 for permanent part-time employees. They will be included in the December paychecks.

The money for the bonuses comes from funding from the Georgia Legislature as well as lower insurance premiums, according to a press release from the school district.

Superintendent Brian Hightower also announced items to support employees that he will include in his budget proposal for the next school year, which the school board will vote on in June.

Significant items in the proposal include:

  • a 5%-7% raise for eligible teachers, which includes a step increase and at least a $2,500 raise.
  • a bonus for returning and new employees in September.
  • a step increase and a raise of $4,000 for school psychologists and speech-language pathologists.
  • a step increase and $2,500 raise for assistant principals.
  • a 3% plus step raise for “classified” employees (non-teachers).
  • new salary schedules for certain specialist and support staff.
  • the step schedule will increase from 29 to 30 years for teachers and to 25 years for non-teachers.

In total, the proposal asks for $20 million to be included in the budget for the changes.

“The most important factor in a student’s success at school is an outstanding teacher,” said Hightower. “We need to show our teachers we value their critically important role in our schools and our community.”

School board member Clark Menard, while appreciative of the plan, cautioned Cherokee should not engage in a salary “arms race” with neighboring Cobb County, the state’s second-largest school system. Menard said Cherokee should promote the county’s quality of life to recruit and retain teachers.

The school board also approved its 2023 Legislative Partnership Priorities, a report for both the state Legislature and citizens that includes its stances on educational issues. Most notable are calls for the Legislature to once again fully fund its state educational formula and increase teacher compensation in the form of permanent raises rather than bonuses.

The report also aims to eliminate schools as polling locations.