Board member Carolyn Booker presents a bonus check to Gabino Gonzales, a cafeteria worker at Westwood High School.

Westwood Independent School District is awarding roughly $200,000 to all 278 employees this week. Every employee — from principals and teachers to office staff, cafeteria workers, and bus drivers — received a check for $700 Thursday. 

The checks are the first half of an incentive program the WISD school board voted for in August. Employees will receive an additional $700 in bonus pay at the end of the spring semester, for a total of $1,400 per employee, amounting to roughly $400,000 during the 2020-2021 school year. 

Superintendent Wade Stanford said the board approved the incentives to show appreciation for employees’ dedication during the pandemic, which has caused a particularly stressful school year for most.

“I think it says, ‘We appreciate what you’re doing in these challenging times, and we want you to know that we value what you have done and what you are doing now,’” Stanford said. 

Administrators and board members distributed the checks with coffee service to staff Thursday, personally thanking each with the recruitment and retention bonus. 

The personal delivery of bonuses before the holidays evoked a range of emotions, from cheers and laughter to tears of joy. 

Michelle Wade called the bonus a “nice surprise” because it arrived in time for purchasing Christmas gifts for her three school-age children. 

A fourth-grade teacher, Wade said the school year has been stressful due to balancing students’ needs in class with the needs of students learning online. 

“The bonus will help lift spirits because it’s been a stressful year,” said Wade, a 20-year veteran who has taught at Westwood Elementary School for 15 years.

Conversations about district-wide incentives arose during meetings with administrators earlier this year, when staff members were already dealing with COVID-19 challenges. 

The bonuses are also a response to feedback received during last year’s bond campaign. 

“The school board and administration consistently heard the community communicate that they want our staff to be taken care of, and the school board listened and responded,” Stanford said.

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