SACS considers pay boost for subs
20 Dec 2020 — Journal Gazette
Ashley Sloboda

A school district that's seen its substitute teacher pool shrink dramatically because of the pandemic is looking to boost those employees' pay.

But leaders of Southwest Allen County Schools acknowledge the $5 boost to the daily rate might not expand the roster of subs.

"I'm not sure how much more we're going to attract," said LuAnn Erickson, human resources director. "I think people want to be at Southwest, they want to be subs here, and everybody's struggling with finding enough subs."

Erickson brought the proposal to the school board last week, months after Fort Wayne Community Schools and East Allen County Schools raised compensation for their substitute teachers.

FWCS pays the most with rates including 110 for substitutes with 60 college credit hours and 115 for those with at least a bachelor's degree. The district's previous minimum daily rate was $95.

Southwest Allen, which requires substitute teachers have 60 college credits, offers the lowest daily rate along with Northwest Allen County Schools : $85.

The proposed increase at SACS would bring the daily rate to 90 and the half-day rate to 45, up from $42.50.

The current rate took effect January 2016.

Erickson also is suggesting the district offer a 100 daily rate and 50 half-day rate for substitutes who are retired SACS teachers to recognize their knowledge and ability. It's a compensation model other districts including EACS have embraced.

"Having a retired teacher in a classroom certainly helps continue that educational momentum more than another sub in that classroom might," said Mark Snyder, SACS business manager.

The district estimates the new rates would result in an annual cost of $26,000.

The investment is important, Erickson said.

"I definitely want to take care of the (substitutes) that we've got and be in the same ballpark with the other districts," she told the board Tuesday.

Staffing shortages related to the coronavirus pandemic have crippled the district's ability to keep students in classrooms. Superintendent Phil Downs announced in late November that middle and high school students : who shifted to remote-only lessons Nov. 11 : would finish the semester remotely instead of returning to classrooms as planned.

SACS couldn't rely on substitutes to fill the gaps. Many told the district to take them off the list this year, Erickson said.

In fall 2019, the district had about 150 to 200 active substitute teachers available to help at various grade levels compared with 51 this year, Downs said last month.

Other ideas to expand the substitute list include reaching out to mothers and fathers through the schools' Parent Teacher Clubs, Downs said. Many guardians have volunteered in classrooms, so they've already completed the necessary background checks.

Brad Mills, the board vice president, suggested reconsidering the requirement substitutes have 60 college credits. His wife substitute teaches, he said, noting she sometimes is merely the adult in the room while a quarantined educator teaches remotely.

That's a good idea to consider for this unique year, Erickson said.

The board could act on the proposed rates Jan. 5. If approved, the increases would be included in the Jan. 20 payroll.

The first semester ended Tuesday with Downs indicating at the board meeting he feels hopeful.

"Right now, I'm optimistic," he said, "because for the last two days, we've been able to staff subs and have a surplus, which tells me my goal of bringing kids back to school the day after Christmas break, or winter break, is going to be achievable."

This story is provided free courtesy of The Fort Wayne Newspapers.
"SACS considers pay boost for subs" Journal Gazette 20 Dec 2020: C1