Manor ISD to implement mental health days for staff

Mental health has been a hot topic for everyone, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020.

Superintendent Robert Sormani says educators had to juggle a lot of obstacles during that unknown time.

"During the pandemic and all of us had some struggles. But on top of that, you began to have labor shortages and teacher shortages within the school system. So you had these twin effects that are really impacting the emotional well-being of our staff and our teachers," says Manor ISD superintendent Robert Sormani.

Dr. Sormani says the school board has been discussing how they can help their staff when they need a day to decompress from stress.

Starting the 2024-2025 academic year, the district is providing one mental health day per semester to support its staff.
For part-time staff, they will receive a portion of time each semester equivalent to the percent of the day that they work. For example, if the employee is part-time and works only ½ days, the employee will receive two ½ days.


"Part of the idea here is just to give them permission. It's okay to take a day to take care of yourself. You don't have to be here every single day. And so that's really the message that we're trying to give our staff," says Sormani.

New Tech High School band director Chris Thomsen, who’s been teaching for 15 years, says this initiative shows the district cares about their well-being.

"There's been quite a lot of things in 15 years that of teaching that happens. I know every job has its struggles. And, it's important to have that balance and to recognize it, and be honest with ourselves," said Thomsen.

And it’s not just the staff who benefit from it, but also the students.

"It's a good conversation to have, you know, students always ask you, oh, where were you yesterday? And now I can say, you know, I needed a day, and that's okay. Everybody needs a day sometimes. So I think it's letting us open up that conversation a little bit more and talk about mental health in a positive way," says algebra teacher Billy Moody.

Dr. Sormani says this initiative is hopefully a steppingstone to retain teachers to stay at Manor ISD.


During the May 21 regular school board meeting, the Manor ISD Board of Trustees approved 1% salary increases for all staff. Additionally, the Trustees explored calling for a Voter-Approval Tax Rate Election (TRE) for November 4, which, if approved by voters, would allow Manor ISD to increase staff salaries by another 2%, bringing the total to a 3% increase from the midpoint for the 2024-2025 school year.

A VATRE allows voters to approve or disapprove the tax rate adopted by the Board of Trustees. If passed, it will allow Manor ISD to access the maximum amount of golden pennies, tax revenue not subject to recapture. If approved, the VATRE would inject approximately $4.8 million annually into the district's operating budget to help offset the loss of federal funding and rising operations costs due to inflation while: 

  • Increasing staff salaries by a total of 3% of the midpoint,
  • Increasing campus safety and security by funding salaries for new school police officers and equipment, and 
  • Increasing mental health support by funding salaries for new social workers and student programs. 

The total cost for the 3% raise for staff, and the additional support for safety and mental health staffing and support is an estimated $5 million. 

If the VATRE is called for and approved, the additional pay increase will take effect in the fall and include retroactive compensation for previous months.

If the VATRE is called for and approved, the projected tax rate for Manor  ISD would be $1.0814 per taxable $100 for the 2024-2025 school year, which is lower than the district's $1.0861 tax rate for 2023-2024. The district would be able to achieve this tax rate due to the state lowering the maximum compressed tax rate during its 88th legislative session last year. 

Typically, property taxes for citizens 65 years or older or those who are disabled are not affected by a rate increase. As Manor ISD's tax rate would decrease if the VATRE is approved, their tax rate would also go down if the appropriate homestead exemptions are filed with the County Appraisal District. 

Trustees will continue to explore the possibility of calling for a VATRE and potentially take action at an upcoming meeting. If called for, the election would occur on Nov. 4.