The Palo Alto school board indicated Tuesday night it will approve a one-time salary bonus for district employees next month.
Under tentative agreements reached with the Palo Alto Educators and California School Employees associations, workers who were under contract during the 2011-12 school year would receive an "off-the-salary-schedule" payment equivalent to 1 percent of their base salary and stipends.
The unions have scheduled ratification votes and will report the results at the school board's Jan. 15 meeting. Pending the results, board members will then vote on the agreements.
Non-represented management and confidential/supervisory employees would also receive the 1 percent bonus.
The passage of Proposition 30 and an anticipated rise in local property tax revenues have put the district in a much better financial position. Instead of a $5.6 million structural deficit, the district now has a $4.1 million surplus. With that in mind, board members said they were in favor of rewarding employees who are working harder and longer than ever before.
"What you do as staff in our district is not the same as what you did as staff in our district five years ago," said Board President Dana Tom. "The great thing is we have results that show that. Our students' achievement is higher. We have more students completing A to G. We're closing the achievement gap. And a lot of that is in no small part due to the hard work of our staff."
A handful of teachers addressed the school board about the need for the bonus Tuesday night. Starting teachers currently make $51,422 per year, but can ultimately earn up to $103,836.
Corey Potter, a kindergarten teacher at Hoover Elementary School, said educators are feeling increasingly squeezed by rising apartment rents and the additional time their jobs demand.
"I think I am safe in speaking for my colleagues when I say that we love our jobs. We feel fortunate to work for a district in which we have all the supplies that we need, no limit to the number of copies we make each month, and for professional development opportunities and paraprofessionals in our classrooms each day. This is as it should be: students first," Potter said.
"But many of us find ourselves taking on extra duties for pay and summer jobs so that we can make ends meet and maybe put something aside for the future."
Board Member Melissa Baten Caswell said the school board appreciated the work of district employees.
"We want the students to be well-supported. We also want you as the teachers to feel well-supported, and so we need to make sure we're putting things in place across the board," she said, "to make sure that doing your job is something that you enjoy doing and you continue to enjoy doing."