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District boosts substitute teacher pay

ABHUTCHISON, Sierra Sun

Betsy Ford has been a substitute teacher for the Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District for 10 years.

On average, she goes to Glenshire and Truckee Elementary three to four days a week, mostly because she wants to be with the kids, she said.

“I substitute (teach) for a little added income and I just want to be there,” Ford said.

As long as Ford has worked as a substitute in this district, the pay rate for substitutes has remained unchanged at $65 per day – until now.

Faced with a recent substitute teacher shortage, with a districtwide sub pool of 24, the district has moved to increase the pay rate to $78 per day for short-term substitutes and $93 per day for long-term substitutes. The new rate increase, which the TTUSD Board of Trustees unanimously approved at last week’s meeting, was upped to better match the rates of other Placer County school districts, according to TTUSD Assistant Superintendent Jim Abbott.

“Our goal is to double or triple the amount of substitutes we now have available,” Abbott said.

“An adequate number of substitutes would be 50 or 60 in this district.”

Since school started last month, the district has been unable to fill its substitute needs, he said. This usually does not occur until much later in the school year when teachers are more prone to be absent because of sickness or other needs.

When this shortage occurs and substitutes are not available, other school staff must rearrange their schedules to help cover the class or classes. In many cases, school administrators fill in for missing substitutes.

Truckee Elementary Assistant Principal Kathleen Gauthier said that since school started she has filled in for missing substitutes about three or four times.

“What usually will happen is (Truckee Elementary Principal) Cathy (Valle) or I will cover a class,” Gauthier said. “Cathy and I enjoy the opportunity to work in the classrooms, but everything else you needed to get done as an administrator that day doesn’t get done. Usually our need for subs is not that great in the beginning of the year. But we were short out of the chute this year.”

Gauthier said that although the district is faced with a current substitute shortage, improvements are forthcoming in the near future. Gauthier does all of the substitute screening and interviewing districtwide, and said she has already interviewed approximately 30 potential qualified substitutes this school year.

“We have been interviewing a lot of people, so it is hopeful,” said Gauthier. “We have so many qualified people that want to work in this district.”

She said with a combination of increased pay and advertising the need for substitutes, the district should be able to fill the void.

And to help make the job more attractive, the district is coordinating a workshop program for new substitutes that will provide introductory training on classroom management and districtwide resources, such as bell schedules for each school, maps and rules.

Ford said the workshops are a great idea.

“I think they are important so a substitute knows the layout of the school, the playground, hallway protocol … just the fundamentals,” Ford said.

She said the hardest thing about being a substitute is when a teacher does not provide lesson plans. That’s when additional training would come in handy, she said.

Ford felt the squeeze for substitutes this year as well. Some days she would walk into school in the morning and have no idea where she would be placed.

“The week before last, for three days, every day I walked into the building and had my schedule changed because of shuffling and no subs,” she said. “It’s not O.K. for the students and it’s not O.K. for the subs and it’s not the teachers who are sick to blame. We just just need more subs.”

According to Abbott, the new rate increase will be coupled with increased advertising of the district’s need for substitutes and the new pay rates as well as training programs twice a year for substitutes within the district. The pay increase is effective immediately, and the training programs will most likely be scheduled within the month. The district is currently seeking advise from site principals on what should be covered in the training programs.

The pay increase will cost the district approximately $42,120 per year. Of this amount, approximately $8,424 would be funded from categorical programs, leaving an increase of $33,696 from the general fund substitute account, Abbott said.

“When planning our budget, when we surveyed different employee groups, increasing substitute pay was rated second for priorities in new budget expenditure with certificated employees and third with classified employees,” Abbott said.

The minimum requirements for substitutes in this district are a bachelor’s degree and a passing score on a basic skills test for prospective credential holders (California Basic Educational Skills Tests). The district’s credential technician and substitute coordinator, Debbie Sanchez, helps schedule the CBEST. The next testing date is Dec. 4. For information about becoming a substitute in Tahoe-Truckee schools, call Sanchez at (530)582-7600.

Ford hopes the district now has better luck hiring new substitutes.

“The thing the district was not realizing what that neighboring communities pay their subs $15 to $20 more per day,” she said. “It’s hard for people to choose to do this on a non-guaranteed day. I’m hoping maybe now they upped the pay, they’ll get some more buy-in.”

She added, “I’ve been classified by my students as really strict, but a clown. I have a good time and I would like to think that everyone else subbing is doing it because they want to be with the kids.”

Gauthier said she hopes the substitute pool expands, but wouldn’t want to see it get so big that people can’t get regular work.


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