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Massillon City Schools administrators use COVID-19 money for bonuses

School system using coronavirus money to reward administrators.

MASSILLON, Ohio — During the pandemic, a lot of school educators, faculty and staff had to pivot due to COVID-19. Now, the Massillon Education Association says they aren’t happy that some of those COVID Cares Act funds are going directly into the pockets of administrators.

The Massillon City School Board approved paying dozens of administrators an extra ten days pay as a bonus for their work during the pandemic. The education association is questioning why that money isn’t being spent directly on students. The $150,000 is slated to come from ESSER, Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief, funding. 

Since March 2020, the school system has received more than $5.6 million dollars in COVID funding.

The list of school employees slated to receive money includes dozens of administrators and a few school psychologists. In a letter, The Massillon Educators Association says all Covid related funding is supposed to be used on students, COVID testing, and preparing buildings to be safe for everyone. Alyssa Plakas, the Massillon Education Association Union Representative says all educators had to work more hours and the money needs to meet the needs of students directly.”

“These are Covid emergency relief funds. So for example, right now all of or elementary school students go to school every day in 80-90 degree weather wearing a masks, in schools with no air conditioning. To us, that seems like a bigger need and use of federal funds than to reward the already highest paid employees,” says Plakas.

Massillon City Schools Superintendent Paul Salvino sent 3News a statement saying in part:

“I couldn't agree more with the Massillon Education Association's stance that one of the purposes for these monies was meant for preparing schools for reopening. Administrators traditionally have high demands outside of their contracted work calendars / days and this is never unusual. The Pandemic and our need to address the reopening of the 20-21' school year as well as maintaining an All-In 5 days a week learning model throughout the school year posed an even more extensive amount of time for these tasks,” wrote Salvino.

Salvino added that school psychologists will be compensated for the restricted timelines they had to navigate while staying in compliance with state and federal timelines.

The teaching professionals agree that because of the mental health component, the psychologists should be compensated. However, instead of administrators being given a bonus, they compiled a list of 15 items they believe is a better use of the money listed below:

MEA Proposal for ESSER funds:

1. Temporary air conditioning for elementary students so they don’t continue to suffer in masks in 80-90 degree heat

2. A full-time nurse for every building

3. Mental health support for every building including: behavioral specialists, mental health counselors, more school counselors, teacher support and training, more school psychologist

4. Online summer school for medically fragile students

5. ACT intervention for all high school students

6. Clear online learning plan for next school year released as soon as possible

7. More tutors and teachers for small groups of at risk students

8. Academic and mental health interventions specifically for historically underserved students and low income youth

9. Kindergarten aids for every classroom

10. Reading intervention teachers and tutors for elementary students

11. Assessment of pandemic related learning loss and academic plan to close the learning gap

12. Comprehensive attendance plan to address increased and chronic absences

13. Wraparound services provided to students and families specifically aimed at pandemic created issues

14. Increased academic and support services to address specific needs of our ESL students

15. Enrichment programs for gifted students

Full statement from MEA:

Mr. Salvino & Massillon Board of Education,

MEA has seen that on the MCS BOE agenda for May 19th, there is a motion to approve extended days for the administrators (31 to be exact) for work outside of the 2020-2021 contracted workdays due to COVID-19 (funding source ESSER II).

The Massillon City School District received $5,672,044.06 from this act. The purpose for this money is to address learning loss, preparing schools for reopening, and the testing, repairing, and upgrading projects to improve air quality in buildings.

We understand the ESSER funds can be used for purposes relating to preventing, preparing for and responding to COVID 19, but we are at a loss that the administration is choosing to use these funds to provide ten days of extra pay to our 31 administrators.

MEA is not downplaying the work that the administration team has done during this school year. However, all employees of the district have been burdened by the COVID-19 pandemic. All employees of the district have put in many extra hours during this school year. To only address the needs of the administration does not demonstrate that all employees and their willingness to work above and beyond during this pandemic was appreciated.

Using the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund money, which is intended to address the impact that COVID-19 has had, and continues to have, on elementary and secondary schools on administrator salaries doesn’t feel very student-centered.

The ESSER II funds must be used responsibly for our students. The taxpayer provided funds must be used for mental health services for our students, functional technology in the classroom, and added personnel to support the needs of our students including school counselors and nurses in every building and additional teachers. For our students to succeed post-pandemic, they need to be invested in with funds such as these to a larger degree than we’ve ever seen.

Respectfully,

Massillon Education Association Executive Board

Full statement from Superintendent Paul Salvino:

At our last public Board of Education meeting (May 19th) I indicated the following areas in which we have allocated ESSER funding thus far...

Millions of dollars allocated as well as future planning in 21’- 22’ and beyond are in process

  • #4200 new chromebooks and licenses with cases purchased using ESSER I & II Funds in the past year
  • Continued support for internet connectivity services to students and families. Personal hotspots and collaboration with in home internet services partnering with Massillon Cable
  • Increased wages for teachers for after school and summer programming to extend learning / providing additional transportation for summer school offerings
  • Long term subs where applicable due to E-learning
  • Enhanced remote programming & communication support for students, staff and parents (ex..State of the art website, Apex learning & Screencastify)
  • District wide classroom technology & software upgrade (still in planning/piloting phase with Tech committee / at the completion of the pilot a district wide purchase will be made)
  • Updated Curriculum providing new resources, blended access and upgraded classroom supplies
  • Cleaning / sanitizing products and other PPE to combat the current pandemic
  • Salary & Fringe for current staffing aligned specifically to pandemic needs to save district general fund dollars.
  • High quality professional development for staff (Social and Emotional learning-PAX and Curriculum & Instruction-Math adoption)
  • Continued planning and implementation with future ESSER dollars being cognizant of changes in current school funding ....to name a few

The 10 extended days for administrators extends back to the onset of the Governor ordered school closure in March of 2020. I couldn't agree more with the Massillon Education Association's stance that one of the purposes for these monies was meant for preparing schools for reopening. Administrators traditionally have high demands outside of their contracted work calendars / days and this is never unusual. The Pandemic and our need to address the reopening of the 20-21' school year as well as maintaining an All-In 5 days a week learning model throughout the school year posed an even more extensive amount of time for these tasks. I am extremely happy to have allocated the ESSER funds we have thus far that directly tie into addressing student learning loss, preparing schools for reopening, preventing, preparing for and responding to COVID-19.

The 10 extended days for school psychologists was to compensate for the many restricted timelines they had to navigate coming into this school year to maintain compliance with state and federal timelines for the evaluation and or identification of students with disabilities under the district's responsibility for Child Find.

I am extremely proud that our preparation, planning and implementation allowed for the Massillon City Schools to remain open for the entirety of this school year.

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