LEWISTON — The School Committee on Monday voted 4-4 against a motion to look into the feasibility of giving educators a small bonus for the extra hours they’re working.

Member Kiernan Majerus-Collins made the motion to have the finance subcommittee determine whether the district could give each teacher an extra $500 and each education technician an extra $250.

“We’ve all heard about the additional work, the risk (posed by COVID-19) and the stresses of being an educator at this time,” Majerus-Collins said.

Teachers told the committee at a Nov. 2 meeting that they are overwhelmed and exhausted. Some said they were working up to 100 hours a week and were at the breaking point, mentally and physically.

The presidents of seven teachers’ unions in Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties last week sent a letter to their respective school boards asking for support.

“Educators are burning out. Fast. Teachers are working long, unsustainable hours to provide the best services possible, given the situation and many are leaving the profession early,” the union leaders wrote.

Lewiston Education Association President Allison Lytton was among those who signed the letter.

She told the committee Monday night that Majerus-Collins’ proposal would help.

She said that when people earn a contracted salary, they do what is expected of them. “If a bigger task is asked, then stipends are paid,” she said.

“Is $250 a lot of money after taxes? No, but I’ll tell you, it would fill up an oil tank,” she said. “Is $500 a lot of money after taxes? No, but it would pay day care for three weeks.”

The simple acknowledgement that teachers are making herculean efforts would help, she said.

“A little bit would be appreciated,” she said.

Alicia Rea, the City Council representative to the School Committee, said she thought it would be reasonable to ask the finance subcommittee to explore whether the compensation would be feasible.

But money wouldn’t fix the problem of the overwhelming workload, member Elgin Physic said.

“The reality is that the work is still there,” he said. “I think this district can be creative. There are a lot of things we can do to support teachers.”

Physic was joined by Tanya Whitlow, Chairwoman Megan Parks and Vice Chairman Bruce Damon in voting against the motion.

The total for the proposed compensation would come to about $330,000, Chief Administrative Officer Bobbi Avery said. Taking that amount of money from the budget would pose a significant risk, she said.

“Every dollar is accounted for,” she said. “There is not unbudgeted money in our budget.”

The district has spent less money than it had by this time last year, but Avery cautioned that unforeseen expenses, such as a boiler failure, could occur.

The district might then have to go to taxpayers for more money, she said.

She said she was already “looking at a cliff” in terms of the next two budget cycles, with the state economy suffering and a law that mandates a $40,000 minimum salary for teachers taking effect.

Majerus-Collins tried previously to get the committee to agree to compensate educators with $1,000 bonuses.


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