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Sioux City school district hopes $5,000 bonuses can recruit new teachers and staff

Katie Peikes
IPR file

New teachers in the Sioux City Community School District will receive a $5,000 bonus for joining the workforce.

In the district’slatest initiativeto recruit more educators, the school board voted unanimously to provide the bonus using a portion of its Education and Secondary School Relief (ESSR) funds on Monday.

School board president Dan Greenwell said the district needs to find solutions to remain competitive in the market. He said he hopes the boost to teacher’s paycheck will draw more teachers to Sioux City.

“We need new employees, and doing what we were doing and had been doing probably isn’t going to work in this market,” he said. “We have to try something differently. Doing nothing is not an option”

The bonus will be available to all teachers who begin teaching after January of this year. Permanent substitute teachers, food service workers and bus drivers will also qualify for stipends of varying sizes.

 The school board voted to provide bonuses of varying sizes, ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 dollars.
Courtesy of Sioux City Community School District
The school board voted to provide bonuses of varying sizes, ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 dollars.

The district is looking to fill more than 50 different teaching positions, and planning to add 15 additional middle school teaching positions next year. The teacher shortage comes as its schools still struggle to find substitute teachers, with a fill rate of just over 70 percent.

Representatives from the Iowa State Education Association (ISEA), the union representing local teachers, said they’re happy to see new hires rewarded, but that the district needs to focus on retention. ISEA local director Brenda Zahner said current teachers deserve recognition for their work.

“You have so many employees who have gone above and beyond in the last couple of years dealing with all these staff shortages,” Zahner said. “I hope that somehow somewhere you find something to give those people as well.”

The teaching staff currently consists of a majority of teachers who have spent less than 10 years working within the district, according to the members of ISEA.

"Doing nothing is not an option”
Dan Greenwell, school board president

Board member Perla Alarcon-Flory said the board will continue to look for solutions to improve staff retention. As of now, she said she hopes filling positions more quickly can alleviate some stress from current educators.

“Our hope is that by hiring more teachers they will have more time and quality of life through smaller classrooms,” Alarcon-Flory said. “Even though [current teachers] may not see a stipend in your checks, you might see more time in your afternoon to spend at home with your families.”

The school board has been working toward recruitment solutions throughout the school year. Members vetoed one idea to hire an outside staffing agency, but passed another plan to raise rates for substitute teachers.

New teachers will receive installments of $2,500 over the course of two years. They can expect the first installment at the end of September in time for the start of the school year.

Kendall was Iowa Public Radio’s western Iowa reporter based in Sioux City, IA until Jan. 20, 2023.