St. Paul Public Schools to offer $10K bonuses in an effort to fill special education positions

Officials with St. Paul Public Schools are hoping the phrase “money talks” will entice more applicants to fill an anticipated 70+ positions across the district for the upcoming school year.

According to a news release issued by the district Monday morning, the bonuses will be up to $10,000 for positions such as special education staff, teachers, social workers, psychologists, speech and language pathologists and more.

The $10,000 bonus will be given to the first 70 special education licensed staff hired for the upcoming school year and will be paid over two school years in three installments. Anyone who is currently employed within the district and who get their license and are hired for a position will also receive the bonus.

In addition, the district is also offering the following bonuses for filling other positions:

  • $4,000 for the first 50 special education educational assistants, behavior intervention specialists and mental health practitioners, as well as that same amount for the first 60 teachers who have a Tier 2, 3 or 4 license and are hired for math, chemistry, middle school science, physical education, language immersion, Montessori or English as a Second Language (Latino Consent Decree positions), and the first 50 special education teaching assistants who are hired
  • $2,000 for current Tier 2 special education teachers in the district who get a Tier 3 or 4 license by November of 2023

The district says each candidate who is hired is only eligible for one bonus and will get the highest bonus they are eligible for if they meet criteria for more than one.

District officials say bonuses will be taxed as supplemental wages.

A district spokesperson tells 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS the funds used for the bonuses will be coming from the district itself, and not from the state.

RELATED: Gov. Walz unveils part of budget proposal with historic education funding

Earlier this year, the district hosted a teacher preparation fair in an effort to help fill the need for teachers in the district. Special education teachers were in high demand at that time as well.

The bonuses come after the school board finalized a new contract for Superintendent Joe Gothard in November of 2022. His contract begins July 1, 2023, and includes a $16,000 raise for Gothard during the first year. Under the terms of his new deal, Gothard’s salary will jump to $256,000 in the first year of the new deal and has built-in raises of just under 2% for each subsequent year, giving Gothard a base salary of $261,120 in 2024-25 and $266,342 in 2025-26.

Additionally, the deal calls for a supplemental salary equal to his pension payments to the St. Paul Teachers’ Retirement Fund Association, which will be worth nearly $20,000 per year over his three-year extension. On top of that, the district will pay $10,000 per year to a supplemental retirement plan for Gothard, along with an additional percentage of his base salary each year that he’ll only receive if he’s still with the district when his extension expires on June 30, 2026. At 5%, 7% and 10% of his base salary each respective year, that fund will be worth nearly $58,000 in 2026.

As previously reported by 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS in August of 2022, the district had 333 openings, which included 122 teaching positions and 106 teaching assistant positions. In order to address the staffing need, the district had formed a new team in the six months prior that included two recruitment specialists and a retention specialist.

Last March, the district and the teachers union averted a strike when a tentative agreement was reached at the last-minute, and included pay raises for staff and a one-time bonus “for their hard work over the past two years”, according to a statement from the St. Paul Federation of Educators. That agreement also increased mental health support and guaranteed recess for students, as well as keeping class size language and caps.