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Should retired teachers be paid more to substitute? Washington County school board talks substitute wages

Jessica Fuller • Dec 15, 2018 at 11:56 PM

Substitute teachers’ wages entered the Washington County Board of Education’s discussion at the board’s meeting Thursday night as members tried to decide if retired teachers should receive an extra boost for substituting. 

Philip McLain posed the question during his presentation of the finance committee report. The system currently pays substitute teachers $55 per day, and a certified teacher gets $60 per day. Finance Director Brad Hale said that the way the policy is worded defines a certified teacher as “a teacher or a substitute teacher with a four-year degree, but not necessarily in teaching or with a teaching license.”

McLain proposed raising the rates to $60 per day for regular substitutes, and $80 per day for retired teachers from the Washington County School system. McLain’s motion would specify a certified substitute as a former teacher instead of someone with a four-year degree. 

“We hear issues all the time about schools having trouble getting (substitutes),” McLain said. “Or the complaints I’ve heard from some folks lately is that they end up pulling instructional assistants and putting them in as (substitutes). And then you’re out the instructional assistant.

“If we raise the retired teacher (wage) to $80, we think that the pool that we have use from is going to grow.” 

Dellinger, a retired teacher, said she’s also noticed a problem with retaining regular substitutes in the system, noting that surrounding systems didn’t seem to have that issue.

Annette Buchanan, a former teacher, argued that having substitutes that aren’t familiar with working in education can sometimes put teachers behind schedule in support of paying experienced educators more.

Fleenor disagreed to paying $20 more for retired teachers, and motioned to amend McLain’s motion to a flat rate of $70 per day, which is a $15 raise from current rates. Johnson City Schools, she pointed out, pays retired teachers $100 more per day than regular substitute teachers. 

“When you have ... to call a (substitute) for a classroom, you’re not going to look down that list and see whether or not they’re certified in the past or retired or however many years (of experience) they’ve got,” he said before amending the motion. “I know what you’re trying to do, but I don’t think $5 a day is going to get somebody else to sign up to be on the (substitute) list.” 

Ganger agreed with Fleenor, adding that he didn’t feel comfortable with “some board members” voting on the issue. 

“I’ve got a problem with some board members that can directly benefit from this or direct family members who can benefit from this,” Ganger said. “I think there’s a conflict of interest with certain board members voting for this.” 

“I’m a retired teacher, but I’m not allowed to work in the system,” Dellinger said. “I have two sisters who are currently working, they’re not going to be working (as substitutes).” 

Hale reported that last year, the system spent about $418,000 paying substitute teachers. Based on last year’s numbers, he estimated that a flat $70 rate would add an additional $102,608 expense. By the same estimation, McLain’s proposal of paying retired teachers more would add about $42,500 based on last year’s numbers.

McLain amended Fleenors amendment for the wages to go into effect Jan. 1. Hale said that the budget could accommodate half of the expected expense for the flat $70 rate to the tune of about $56,000, if last year’s trends hold up to be about the same this year. 

McLain’s motion passed, and Fleenor’s amendment for the flat $70 raise passed in a 6-3 vote with McLain, Dellinger and Buchanan voting against it. The amended motion passed 5-4 with Ervin’s nay added to the vote. 

In other news, the board decided to give Director of Schools Bill Flanary the discretion to turn Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and Presidents Day – on Jan. 21 and Feb. 18, respectively – into school days after county schools had almost a week off due to weather. 

The motion didn’t convert the days off to school days just yet, but Ervin said he was worried that the county might get more snow this year and affect spring break or summer vacation. 

The system still has eight built-in school days left, but Flanary can’t turn the two holidays into school days without the board’s permission. McLain questioned that if schools are closed after the two dates pass if it could affect spring break. 

“If you get past those two days and still have to do something, I think we’re going to end up going to school past Memorial Day,” Flanary said. 

The motion passed in a unanimous vote, giving Flanary the discretion to turn the two dates into school days in the future. 

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