By Steve Robinson | September 13, 2018 - 10:03 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

NORMAL – Officials for Normal-based Unit 5 School District informed constituents the district will assemble a working group which will tackle matters which concern substitute teachers employed by the district. A pay increase is among the matters the district’s substitute teachers would like Unit 5 to look into.

Currently, substitute teachers are paid $80 per day Monday through Thursday, and $90 for every Friday they work. Two substitute teachers who work in the district, Martha Arjona and Duane Malany, presented their concerns during the meeting’s public comments section.

“I’m a long-term sub here and this is my 13th year, but I do know the sub pay has not increased in 18 to 20 years,” Arjona told Board members. She told Board members she researched and found Peoria School District 150 pays subs $130 per day, with that amount going up after a sub has taught for 15 straight days to $180 per day. “That’s significantly higher than what we have here,” she told the Board.

She suggested Unit 5 should consider paying certified teachers who have teaching degrees more than what they pay someone who does not hold that distinction. Responsibility for substitutes has been increased to manage a classroom, stated fellow substitute Dawn Leman, but the money subs get for that increased duty has not.

Fellow substitute teacher Duane Malany made the point that a substitute teacher ought to be considered an employee of the district and receive a means of being able to communicate with teachers they sub for to make the teachers aware of any issues they may have encountered in the class they worked in. He said he would like to see the district provide substitutes with an email address through Unit 5’s email system.

“I think substitutes are professionals and should be treated that way,” Malany told Board members. He said his training from the district before being put in a classroom consisted of a course in first aid and an overview regarding sexual harassment in the workplace.

“Outside of that, I was given no guidance on what to expect,” Malany said, adding that during his time at Unit 5, he had only had three instances where a school principal made contact or introduced themselves to him. He said because of the contact principals made, he has become “loyal to those schools” while not as much toward schools where he wasn’t shown that approach.

He called the feeling of not being known at some schools “uncomfortable” because of not knowing the staff at some schools he goes in to.

A discussion of how to rectify the issues brought by substitutes followed, led by Dr. James Harden, executive director of human resources and student services, and Marty Hickman, business manager for the district. The concerns surrounding substitute teachers pay and other concerns found a spark during the public comments section of the Board’s Aug. 22 meeting. There, Pam Etcheson, a substitute teacher in the district, asked Board members to consider a raise in pay for fill-in teachers.

During the latest meeting, Harden said, since the August meeting, Unit 5 has been looking into the concerns which were brought to their attention. “It’s important to say we appreciate and value what you do when you come into our classrooms,” he told those subs present at the meeting. There were about 6-8 fill-in teachers on hand for the meeting.

Pay for substitutes comes out of the district’s education fund, where in the last few school years, between $1.2 million and $1.5 million has been earmarked to give them their keep. Substitutes say they need to use what they are paid to buy gas and purchase teaching licenses if they are certified for them.

Board Member Alan J. Kalitzky asked Hickman to consider keeping track of how many classes were not filled by a substitute teacher in the district, which Hickman agreed to look into. When no substitute is available, a school administrator, such as a principal or vice principal must step in to oversee a class, Harden explained.

The next step in addressing the issue substitutes want to see addressed will come when the district forms a work group which will includes substitutes, classroom teachers, and administrators. That work group will be tasked with researching the situations substitutes have brought to the district’s attention, including finding a way to speed up how often subs are paid. Currently, depending on when a sub works, about 45 days passes before they are paid by the district.

Board Member Taunia Leffler asked Harden how long before the work group would be put together. Harden answered it would take about a month. He told Board members he hoped to have members of the substitutes work group in place by the Board’s first meeting next month, and that its hopes the work group’s first meeting will have already taken place by the Board’s second meeting in October.

Following the session, Hickman said the district will look into a way to add substitutes to the district’s email system. After the meeting, he said putting substitutes into the district email system is not difficult, but making sure to completely take them off the system should they leave the district is not as immediate a process to complete.

Board Approves Issuing Bonds: Board members unanimously approved a resolution to issue $21.5 million in general obligation bonds for refunding purposes and another $16.5 million in general obligation bonds for use in the district’s working cash fund. There was no discussion prior to the vote being taken.

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