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New substitute guidelines would pay teachers who cover a colleague's class

Charlottesville teachers who cover a colleague’s classes when a substitute is not available will be compensated for their time under a plan approved by the Charlottesville School Board Tuesday. 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 starting April 1. The division is budgeting $25,000 for this plan in the next fiscal year.

The school division is rethinking how it supports teachers and substitutes as it faces an ongoing shortage of people available to lead classes when a teacher is absent.

On average, about 70% of absences are covered by a substitute, a rate that is improving as the division has implemented several changes in recent months to hire more substitutes.

But Schools Superintendent Rosa Atkins said one absence not covered by a substitute affects five to 20 teachers a day.

At Charlottesville High School, Atkins said an unfilled substitute request means up to five teachers would be called on to cover classes. At Walker, it’s up to 20 teachers because, she said, four teachers might be asked to cover one 42-minute class period, and every teacher has five class sections.

When a teacher is asked to substitute for a sick or absent colleague, they have to push meetings, planning time and other work to after the school day. Teachers have been asking for compensation for the time they lose in order to to cover a colleague’s class.

Atkins recently met with a group of teachers to discuss the substitute issue and brainstorm solutions. The plan presented to the School Board on Tuesday is the result of those discussions.

Each quarter, teachers would have the chance to sign up to serve as a substitute.

Atkins said that the handling of unfilled requests at elementary schools would be determined at the school level, but there would be compensation if a class was split up among other teachers. She said that exact details aren’t finalized yet.

“We didn’t go that far,” Atkins said. “The elementary people felt like this would be very rare that they would do this … They said they don’t face the same issues that Walker, Buford and the high school face.”

County school officials have said that teachers who cover a class during the second half of this school year will receive some compensation.

The second prong of Atkins’ plan addresses pay and bonuses for substitutes.

Charlottesville is planning to raise the daily rate for substitutes next year from $91 to $105, according to its funding request. Albemarle County pays substitutes $85 a day and implemented several measures this school year to address the staffing issue.

Under Charlottesville’s new guidelines, substitutes would receive a welcome packet and each school would select a teacher to serve as a greeter who would unlock the classroom door and help get the substitute settled.

During the school day, the department chair would check in. At the end of the day, the substitute will receive a small gift card for a sandwich or cold drink, Atkins said.

“We want our substitutes to be regular substitutes in our building,” she said.

Those who serve as a substitute 10 times a month will receive a $150 bonus, which doubles for those who step in 20 times a month. Atkins said, on average, there are 20 opportunities to substitute teach a month.

“This is a really great model and what I really appreciate about it is how many substitutes we’ve hired over the last two months,” School Board chairwoman Jennifer McKeever said. “We can hopefully make this model work very well but at the same time, we won’t need it as much.”


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