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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — The Shawnee Mission School District (SMSD) will soon invest more than a half a million dollars towards incentives to attract and retain employees in hard to fill positions.  

Monday the school board voted unanimously to approve new pay incentives for paraeducators and custodians. 

Superintendent Dr. Michelle Hubbard said currently there are about 150 open positions for center-based paraeducators and second shift custodians within the district.

Now the district will offer a $300 signing bonus for center-based paraeducators and second shift custodians hired after Oct. 25. Pre-K paraeducators hired on or after Oct. 25 will also receive a $150 signing bonus. 

“It’s $300 for some groups and $150 for other groups. That really is based on need or how demanding it is to fill those positions. Then every 30 days there would be an attendance incentive for those positions for new employees and current employees in those positions,”Hubbard said. 

Second shift custodians and center-based paraeducators will receive a $300 retention bonus for every 30 school days worked. Attendance based incentives will begin on Oct. 25 and the first payment will be made on Dec. 12. 

Pre-K paraeducators will also receive a $150 retention payment for every 30 days worked. 

The incentive program will cost the district approximately $600,436 to implement and will be paid for through the federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER). 

Dr. Michael Schumacher, associate superintendent of human resources, said the district plans to reevaluate pay scales for all classified employees in the 2023-24 school year. 

“We’ve really wrestled with what to do. We feel like this is a band-aid, so to speak, to get us through this year while we continue to look at what those pay scales will look like for the 2023-24 school year,” Schumacher said. 

The incentive program will wrap up at the end of the 2023 fiscal year, which ends in June. Hubbard said in the coming weeks the district will also consider incentives for employee referrals. 

“Right now that is where a majority of our new hires are coming from. [They] are referrals from current employees rather than just people randomly applying on our website. We are doing a little bit of research and looking into some sort of referral incentive for classified staff,” Hubbard said.