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Iowa lawmakers pass teacher retention bonus for district hit by January shooting

Employees of the Perry, Iowa, school district may receive retention bonuses under a bill heading to the desk of Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds.

Teachers and staff in the rural Iowa district where a deadly school shooting took place earlier this year could get bonuses if they don't quit their jobs under a new bill approved by lawmakers and sent to the governor.

The Jan. 4 attack at the high school in Perry, Iowa, about 40 miles northwest of Des Moines, killed sixth grader Ahmir Jolliff, fatally injured the high school's principal, Dan Marburger, and injured six others. The bill allows the school district in Perry, Iowa, to spend $700,000 of local tax dollars on bonuses for employees during the upcoming school year.


The shooting began in the cafeteria as students were gathering for breakfast before classes resumed after winter break. The 17-year-old student, Dylan Butler, who opened fire also died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot.

Rep. Carter Nordman, a Republican, said that representatives from Perry and Iowa’s school board association approached lawmakers about the challenge with staff retention that had faced other schools coping with similar tragedies.

This approach was a quick and efficient way of allowing Perry to address staff retention locally, Nordman said, even though "no amount of money" will change what happened. It will be up to Perry to allocate the bonuses; the bill indicates any district employee is eligible, not only those working at the high school or middle school where the shooting took place.

"The reality is that it did happen, and this is one way that Perry could hopefully say to teachers that: ‘We support you, we’re here for you, we want you to continue to be a part of this community and teach here,’ " Nordman said.

The bill would also waive state requirements on the length of Perry’s school term. The school district canceled classes at the middle and high schools, which share the cafeteria, and the nearby elementary school for several weeks as the community mourned and the district addressed safety concerns.

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