Harlingen, San Benito school districts spread holiday cheer with bonuses

LEFT: A view of a Harlingen CISD school bus Wednesday, May 25, 2022, after school dismissal. (Miguel Roberts | The Brownsville Herald) RIGHT: The San Benito Consolidated Independent School District John F. Barron Administration building is pictured Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023, in San Benito. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)
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HARLINGEN — Area school districts are spreading holiday cheer.

Across the Rio Grande Valley, thousands of employees are in line for bonuses, or so-called “retention stipends,” as part of the districts’ programs aimed at keeping teachers and other staff on the payroll.

In Harlingen, the district’s full-time employees are getting ready for bigger bonuses than they got last year.

As part of the district’s new $212.3 million budget, the school board’s giving full-time employees bonuses based on their tenures, Victoria Kortan, the district’s deputy superintendent, said, adding about 3,000 employees work for the district.

For employees with 15 or more years of service, the district’s giving bonuses of $1,500 while those with six to 14 years of tenure are receiving $1,000 stipends.

The school board approved $750 bonuses for employees with up to five years of service.

Last year, the board approved $1,000 stipends for the district’s employees.

“As a board, we are committed to expanding opportunities for students, ensuring a systemic approach to recruit and retain the very best employees in HCISD and keeping taxes low,” Dr. Belinda Reininger, the school board’s president, stated.

The district’s paying out the bonuses Dec. 8, Kortan stated.

In San Benito, employees are up for bonuses similar to those they received last year.

As part of the district’s new $115.8 million budget, school board members last week approved $500 bonuses for full-time employees while part-time employees are up for $300 stipends.

This year, the district’s employing 1,563 full-time employees and 77 part-time workers, Isabel Gonzalez, the district’s spokeswoman, stated.

For at least seven straight years, board members have approved the retention stipends, board President Orlando Lopez said.

“It’s always a pleasure to give them a token of our appreciation to increase morale,” he said in an interview. “Since I’ve been on the board, we’ve always managed to give some pay raises and stipends. There’s no better time than during the holidays when our staff really needs it.”

In Harlingen and San Benito, officials did not have information readily available on the bonuses’ total costs.