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Charlottesville schools to raise substitute pay to $20 an hour

Charlottesville school administrators will propose raising the hourly rate of substitute teachers and lowering the minimum qualifications in an effort to recruit more substitutes, though it’s unclear exactly how many more people are needed.

“We want our principals to be able to tell us we are getting the coverage we need,” said Beth Baptist, the school system’s interim director of human resources. “I’d rather have a longer list with people who get called less frequently than the current situation.”

Currently, Baptist doesn’t have a specific hiring goal for substitute teachers other than building out the list of people who can be called on to help.

On Thursday, the School Board will hear and likely vote on a proposal to raise the hourly rate to $20 an hour, which would be about $140 a day, according to board documents. Currently, substitutes make $13 an hour or $91 a day. Anyone with a high school diploma or GED would be able to apply. Previously, potential substitute teachers needed to have at least 60 hours of college credits, which would be about an associate’s degree.

“It’s making it more accessible for folks who would be willing to do it,” Baptist said. “We don’t want it to be a barrier.”

Baptist added that the 60-credit requirement also has kept out interested college students. All the changes are in line with area school divisions, Baptist said.

The shortage of people to fill in for teachers who are absent has been exacerbated by the pandemic and one of several staffing shortages this school year. Baptist said that some people have been concerned about coming into the school buildings while students aren’t yet vaccinated. She hopes the situation will improve as younger schoolchildren start getting vaccinated against COVID-19. The vaccine was approved for children ages 5 to 11 on Tuesday and shots will start for kids in the area Saturday.

Baptist said that getting substitutes has always been a challenge because it’s a hard job.

“We don’t want subs to be seen as babysitters,” she said. “We want instruction to continue.”

The division also is planning to create a new position — a school-based, salaried substitute — who would make $220 a day to help provide more consistent coverage as well as recruiting retirees and holding outreach events in the area.

“We’re trying to reach the problem from lots of different ways,” Baptist said an interview this week.

The division also offers incentives to people who work for at least 10 consecutive days. On day 11, those substitutes are considered long-term and get a pay bump to about $31 an hour.

Baptist said that so far this school year, there have been “a significant percent of times” in which the division has had school staff to cover classes when they couldn’t find a substitute.

“Teachers have had a hard time,” she said. “I think this is the hardest year for education of the pandemic.”

This is the first year since schools closed suddenly in March 2020 that students have been back in the buildings full-time along with a host of other mitigation measures that teachers are expected to enforce. With quarantines relating to COVID and other reasons, the schools are seeing a greater need for substitutes this year.

Rae Regan, a reading specialist at Walker Upper Elementary School, spoke at the October board meeting about how the substitute shortage has affected her job this year, reading a letter co-written by her and Jen Snyder, also a reading specialist at Walker.

“We both thoroughly enjoy the time we have spent teaching in Charlottesville City Schools and love working in this community,” Regan said. “As you know the mission of CCS is: every learner; every day; everyone. Right now the substitute shortage in the division is stopping us from accomplishing that mission, and we fear for the success of our students.”

Regan said that during the first eight weeks into the school year, she was only able to work with one group of students on the reading skills, which is her main role in the building, because she kept getting called on to cover a colleague’s class.

General classroom teachers also have been asked to give up their planning time to cover staff absence along with other staff in support roles including gifted resource teachers, math specialists and behavior interventions, she said.

“This means that students who are struggling with math and reading are not receiving the necessary interventions that they need to succeed in and out of the classroom,” she said. “Students who excel are not being given the proper enrichment that they need to keep growing their minds, not to mention that these services are services that local taxpayers have been paid for and have been told that their students are receiving.”

Regan praised the Walker administrative team for their work to get substitutes into the building and make the process “as painless as possible.”

At the October meeting, schools Superintendent Royal Gurley Jr. said that he was already looking at data about teacher absenteeism and how the division could bring in more substitutes. “Gurley said the most important requirement for the job is that applicants care about children.

“[If] We can take all the other stuff off and just put love children, I think we might be able to get a bigger pool, so we’re gonna work through those qualifications,” he said.

Even before before the pandemic, Charlottesville sought in early 2020 to make a number of changes as part of a plan to recruit and retain more substitutes. That plan also included compensating teachers who covered a colleague’s classes when a substitute was not available.

At the time, about 70% of teacher absences were covered by a substitute. One absence not covered by a substitute affects five to 20 teachers a day, depending on the school, officials said at the time, because they have to help cover for other teachers.

Under the $25,000 plan presented, teachers at Charlottesville High School, Walker and Buford Middle School who cover five periods will receive an extra $105, and those who cover 10 periods will be paid $210. The pandemic and virtual learning put those plans on hold but they were adopted in the most recent operating budget.

For more information about the job and to apply, go to charlottesvilleschools.org/jobs.

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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