BEAUFORT COUNTY, S.C. (WSAV) — Beaufort County ranks 53rd among South Carolina school districts in teacher pay.

That’s why school officials are taking steps to attract and retain educators.

The Schoolboard approved Superintendent Dr. Frank Rodriguez’s proposal to give teachers a 3% pay raise.

“This pay increase comes at a crucial time for our employees,” said Rodriguez. “Our educators and staff worked extremely hard during the pandemic to keep learning moving forward, and they deserve this.”

Retroactive funds will be distributed to employees on June 10. The raise will be reflected in employees’ paychecks when the 2023 school year commences.

The 3% salary increases will total approximately $5.5 million to be paid from savings in the District’s current year General Fund operating budget.

But Dr. Rodriguez believes in this climate, it means much more.

“It’s important to send a message that here in Beaufort County we appreciate and we take care of our educators,” said Rodriguez. “This is an opportunity for us to make an impact on that and show educators and future educators the appreciation we have for them.”

At this time that appreciation is more vital than ever.

The district is already down 120 teachers, and national studies show that even more, as many as 53% across the country, are thinking about or will leave the classroom by this fall.

“In South Carolina, I believe they lose 8% a year and colleges and universities only replace about 4%,” said Rodriguez.

So while this raise, and the $1,000 pandemic bonus already approved this year helps the current crop of teachers, it also sends a message to the next.

“The reality is while there are people interested in it there aren’t enough people going into it,” said Rodriguez.

“We need good people, dedicated that see education as a career they really want to get into. And I think they are out there and I think compensating encourages people to want to come into the profession.”

A profession that despite its challenges, Rodriguez believes is rewarding — not just

“All other professions are possible because someone had a teacher in their life.”

The Board also authorized the superintendent to provide bonuses for teachers who performed dual-modality instruction for each semester of the 2021-2022 school year.

Certified educators were paid $1,000 on Dec. 17 2021 to prepare for the delivery of dual-modality instruction for the first semester, but those who actually delivered dual-modality instruction will receive additional payments. Teachers who delivered dual-modality instruction in the first semester for 1 to 14 days will receive an additional $250; 15 to 28 days $350; 29 to 42 days $450; and more than 42 days will receive $550.

Teachers who deliver dual-modality instruction during the second semester for 1 to 14 days will receive $1,250; 15 to 28 days $1,350; 29 to 42 days $1,450; and more than 42 days will receive $1,550.

These newly approved dual-modality bonuses will be distributed to employees in June of 2022.

Rodriguez says he plans to introduce another teacher pay raise proposal at Friday’s Schoolboard work session. That would take effect next school year.