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The Daily Tar Heel

Orange County School Board approves staff bonuses and Contagious Disease Leave

The Orange County Schools Board of Education met virtually on Sept. 27.

The Orange County Schools Board of Education met Monday to discuss staff bonuses, Contagious Disease Leave and mask policies for high school athletic events.

After some brief recognitions, Hillary MacKenzie, board chairperson, opened the meeting by condemning the white supremacist meeting outside of the Orange High School football game, which happened last Friday. 

“I wholeheartedly believe in peaceful protesting over government decisions, but I cannot support making room for intimidation, threats of violence or allowing hate groups the opportunity to recruit our sons and daughters," Mackenzie said. "My message to you this evening is that I believe in democracy, and I believe that this community will continue to elect a school board who values public health over personal convenience.”

One-time bonus for staff

A one-time $1,200 bonus will be given to all active employees, including certified and non-certified staff, and all school-based administrators, Vice Chairperson Brenda Stephens said.

Stephens said this bonus is intended “to acknowledge the hard work and value that every Orange County Schools employee brings to the district.” 

This bonus, however, doesn’t cover those who work less than twenty hours per week, she said. The board also discussed potentially cutting this bonus from employees who received wage bumps earlier this year.

“I just want it to be equitable and fair across the board” Stephens continued. “Anyone who got a bump over the last six months shouldn’t receive the bonus. We had some people get almost a $10,000 raise. It wouldn’t be fair.” 

Several board members expressed their concerns about these exclusions. A vote on whether employees initially excluded from receiving the bonus will get it later was postponed until the next board meeting to allow for further discussion.

Contagious Disease Leave revision

Contagious Disease Leave is paid leave provided by the state for employees who are absent from work, MacKenzie said, due to a quarantine or isolation order from the state or local health director. 

If an employee has COVID-like symptoms and is told to go home, but they refuse to get a COVID-19 test, the health director will require them to stay out of work for a two-week quarantine, board member Sarah Smylie said. 

The change would require employees to get the test so they have a chance of getting back to work faster, helping with staffing issues. 

Another change being made to Contagious Disease Leave policy involves vaccinations. If an employee doesn’t have a vaccination exemption, and is told by the school to get one, their two-week quarantine will be taken out of their regularly allotted leave time.

“We’ve had many situations where things like this have happened," Smylie said. "These two changes would address a wide range of issues we’ve come across.”

The board unanimously approved the implementation of both changes to the policy. 

 The Orange County School Board will meet again for a work session on Monday, Oct. 11.


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