With the severe shortage of substitute teachers, Kenyon-Wanamingo Superintendent Bryan Boysen asked the School Board to consider boosting pay for teachers who give up prep time to substitute teach and increasing substitute teacher pay.

“In consultation at leadership meetings and talking with teachers, we all know there’s a severe teacher shortage and a severe sub shortage,” said Boysen to the School Board. “Our teachers are working extremely hard, working through prep and not getting breaks, it’s affecting everything about them. It’s a valid concern.”

The board on Nov. 22 approved two separate resolutions, which Boysen said go hand in hand. One, set to expire June 30, 2022, gives teachers who give up 16 periods of prep time to serve as subs an additional $200 stipend, and teachers who sub more than 16 periods will receive an additional $200 stipend for every eight periods they sub.

Teachers on a pro-rated contract will be paid their normal hourly rate if substituting longer than their normal prep period during the day. The amount will be determined by diving each teacher’s current annual salary by the total number of hours they are contracted for.

The agreement also gives administration the flexibility to modify emergency school cancellations to include professional workdays as an option, along with early release days to include more prep time.

For substitute pay, the current setup was revised (effective Nov. 22 through June 2, 2022) to indicate teacher subs will earn base substitute rate plus an additional $55 stipend when substituting for a full day through Teachers on Call, and teacher subs will earn base rate plus an additional $27,50 stipend when substituting for a half day through Teachers on Call. Secondary and elementary teachers get $120 for a full day, and $60 up to half day, while retired K-W teachers/subs who have subbed at K-W more than 20 days for five consecutive years earn $125.

According to a Education Week survey conducted by the EdWeek Research Center Sept. 29 to Oct. 8, “77% of principals and district leaders said they have struggled to hire a sufficient number of substitute teachers. More administrators pointed to difficulties hiring subs than any other staffing position.”

An article from the Associated Press finds that public schools have struggled for years with teacher shortages, but the pandemic has exacerbated the problem. According to a June survey of 2,690 members of the National Education Association, the Associated Press states 32% said the pandemic drove them to plan to leave the profession earlier than expected.

Teacher burnout

School board member Debb Paquin asked how many periods teachers are giving up, and recommended a position similar to a float nurse in medicine, where a nurse moves from one unit to another, might work in this situation. Boysen said that is something that can considered in the future. The resolutions he proposed were intended to be more immediate solutions, and would take a large chunk out of the COVID dollar funds.

“I cannot emphasize enough that our teachers are almost at a breaking point because they are working so hard, this is another way we can help through this process,” said Boysen of the increase.

Happy to give teachers additional pay for the additional work they are doing, Paquin said a more permanent long-term solution still needs to be developed.

“We need to avoid teacher burnout. I don’t want to lose a single staff person because they’ve had enough,” said Paquin.

Board member Tonya Craig added the additional pay isn’t necessarily saving them from that breaking point.

Paquin said the float staff member wouldn’t have to be a licensed teacher, it could also be someone with administrative or secretarial background, or a volunteer or even a senior citizen.

“Even if it’s someone doing more of the behind the scenes stuff so teachers would have less to do, just a human that could help,” said Paquin. “I think a float person in medicine is invaluable. Someone in a secretarial position might be less expensive than a licensed teacher or more readily available.”

Looking at the overall pay for substitute teachers in comparison to retired K-W teachers, Craig felt retired teachers deserve more than a $5 increase than others in the Teachers on Call pool, and wondered if an extra increase would provide more interest. Craig asked Board member Kevin Anderson, a retired K-W teacher, for his input.

Anderson said he would come back to teach for nothing, but said it’s nice for a teacher to be acknowledged for their skill and dedication to the district. He added that additional pay would be a way of thanking them for their work.

Paquin recommended the board bring the extra pay increase for retired K-W teachers forward next April, months before the amended agreement expires.

“I agree with Mr. Anderson, teachers that have been here teaching know us, let’s get them back,” said Paquin.

Reach reporter Michelle Vlasak at 507-333-3128. ©Copyright 2021 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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