Full-time school employees in Pinellas County may get same bonus as teachers

Earlier this year, state lawmakers approved $1,000 bonuses for all classroom teachers and principals in Florida. Now, Pinellas County Schools is making sure the rest of the district’s full-time employees get the same compensation.

It took thousands of people to keep Pinellas County Schools running during the pandemic. Ginger Brengle says her role at Pinellas Park High School as the library media technology specialist changed overnight. She found herself working long hours to help with software and technology support.

"We became responsible for distributing the laptops to all of our students, supporting our teachers through the use of Canvas and all of the other software programs we were using," she explained.

Yet when the Florida Legislature set aside funds to award classroom teachers and principals $1,000 each for their hard work, Brengle did not qualify for the bonus.

"My first thought was those classroom teachers deserve it. But my second thought was, what about all of the people that work behind the scenes," Bengle said.

Turns out, district leaders and the three school unions had the same thought. We are told they all came together immediately to make up the difference.

"This has been a year like no other. And I’m so proud. I am so proud of our staff, each and every one of them, for the work that they've done. So this was this was an easy, easy decision," said Pinellas County Schools Superintendent Michael Grego.

The district decided to use around $7.3 millon of federal stimulus funds to make sure the more than 7,000 other workers also receive a bonus.

Every person who was employed full-time between December 19 and April 30 will get a check for $1,000, no matter their job title.

"Anyone who worked last year and during the crisis, and showed up, and took the risks, and went through all the safety protocols, and did everything that they possibly could to keep themselves and the children safe, every single one of them will receive a bonus," Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association President, Nancy Velardi said.

Officials hope the checks will go out sometime this summer, explaining they plan to match the timing up with the money coming from the state.

A gesture employees say is appreciated after a challenging school year.

"I feel much more valued and validated," Brengle said.