Washington Parish School Board approves payment of stipend for employees

Published 2:43 pm Thursday, September 7, 2023

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The Washington Parish School Board convened a special meeting on Sept. 5, 2023, with the primary agenda item being the discussion and action regarding the disbursement of a one-time stipend. This stipend, totaling $2000 for certified positions and $1000 for support positions, was allocated during the 2023 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature.

Dana Knight, the Director of the Business Office, explained that the stipend funds had been provided by the state legislature, and her office had completed all necessary preparations for the disbursement. Pending approval, employees were expected to receive these funds in their bank accounts by Sept. 8, 2023. It was emphasized that even teaching positions not fully certified according to Louisiana standards were considered certificated for this stipend. Additionally, Mrs. Knight clarified that the district would incur approximately $30,000 in costs beyond the state-provided funds, which would be drawn from the general fund. Superintendent Frances Varnado confirmed that she would not be receiving this stipend.

Before the board’s vote, Tori Waldrep posed questions regarding the legislative process, inquiring whether the board was aware that the Louisiana Senate had initially passed a raise that ultimately became a stipend. She also asked about a bill passed by the Louisiana House aimed at reducing retirement fund debt and its potential cost savings for the district. Board President John Wyble clarified that neither of these bills had become law, as they had not passed both legislative chambers. The only bill that had been enacted and the subject of the current meeting was the stipend.

James Tate then approached the board and stated, “$2000 to teachers and $1000 to support staff…it seems like the language changed.”  Mr. Wyble explained that the process began with House Bill 1, the state budget, which determined the total stipend cost. This figure was then sent to the Department of Education, which allocated funds to the district. The board had been notified in July that the stipend funds would be deposited by Aug. 28. The final step was board approval to release the funds, prompting the special meeting.

Regarding the stipend’s coverage, Mr. Tate questioned whether it applied to everyone. Mr. Wyble clarified that the stipend was intended for approximately 95 percent of teachers and support staff. Employees not covered by MFP (Minimum Foundation Program) funds would have their situation addressed separately in the following agenda item. The board unanimously approved the issuance of the stipend funds.

The subsequent agenda item concerned the disbursement of a one-time stipend to Pre-Kindergarten personnel. Mrs. Knight explained that some employees, particularly Pre-K teachers and paraprofessionals, were not covered by the initial allocation. However, the district had identified alternative funding through ESSER funds (COVID-19 relief funds). The same stipend amounts of $2000 for teachers and $1000 for support staff would be followed for these employees. Mr. Wyble elaborated that state MFP funds cover K-12 education, excluding Pre-K, which necessitated securing additional funds to provide the stipend to Pre-K teachers and paras. The board unanimously approved this proposal.

With no further business to address, the special meeting was adjourned.