Denver Newsroom, Feb 9, 2021 / 12:50 am (CNA).- Catholic school teachers and other school employees of the Diocese of Jefferson City, Missouri will get a bonus, thanks to a major $1.4 million gift from anonymous donors.

“We are blessed with generous people in our diocese, some of whom wanted to help us express our appreciation for the way our teachers and staff have stepped up to these exceptional times,” Bishop W. Shawn McKnight of Jefferson City said in a Feb. 5 video announcement. “These people understand all our teachers and staff deserve a shot in the arm (so to speak) as we deal with COVID fatigue.”

The gift will go to all employees, including teachers, administrative staff, support staff, and part-time workers. The bonus will vary based on their role.

There are 37 elementary schools and three high schools in the Jefferson City diocese’s system. Close to 6,700 students are enrolled.

Teachers reacted to the announcement with gratitude.

“We had lots of very excited people yesterday when they heard the news,” Helen Osman, the diocese’s communications director, told the Jefferson City News Tribune. She said the bonus was a significant amount for some staff members.

The diocese said the gift will help provide parity with public school salaries. Most of its schools have a salary schedule “between 80 and 89 percent of their local public school’s salary scale,” said the diocese.

“The bonuses will bring the take home pay for Catholic school personnel to be closer to the diocesan goal of 90% of public school personnel’s pay,” the diocese said.

Angie Shelangoski, principal of St. Stanislaus Elementary School in Wardsville, praised the work of Catholic school teachers.

“The lengths these teachers have gone to, the creativity they’ve shown and supplemental materials they’ve found in making their lessons come alive through technology, it’s nothing short of amazing,” she said.

Anthony Arnold, principal of St. Patrick Elementary School in Rolla, said the money recognizes that student success is “the result of a lot of hard work and going above and beyond, unbeknownst to many.”

“It’s a beautiful thing to watch, and it is everything Catholic schools are about,” he said, according to the diocese.

“We’re here because of our faith, and we believe in what we’re doing,” said Mary McCoy, principal of St. Peter Elementary School in Marshall.

The donors of the $1.4 million sum live in the diocese, whose territory covers 38 counties in northeastern and central Missouri. There are about 82,000 Catholics in the diocese out of a total population of about 920,000, according to 2017 statistics on the diocese’s website.

This year’s donation is not the first major anonymous gift.

In February 2020 anonymous donors helped pay off the entire $6.2 million debt for the diocese’s Tolton Regional Catholic High School, the Columbia Missourian newspaper reported. Most of the debt had been incurred in the school’s construction, which was completed in 2010. Last year, the school had 250 students in grades nine through twelve. It is the only Catholic high school in Columbia, Missouri.

The 2021 salary bonus was announced at the close of Catholic Schools Week. Catholic Schools Week has been observed for over 47 years in the U.S., according to the National Catholic Education Association. The week aims to support Catholic schools with Masses, assemblies and other activities and to connect schools with prospective families, donors, educators and community members.

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