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Pasco substitute teachers could see pay increase

District officials say more competitive wages could help fill vacancies, which have been rising.

With several of its schools struggling to fill substitute teacher spots, the Pasco County school district is looking to pay $5 to $15 more per day.

“Guest teachers” with only a high school diploma would make $75 a day, up from $65, while others with degrees would earn $80. Long-term substitutes would make $100 daily.

See the full proposal here.

The need is clear, assistant superintendent Kevin Shibley said, as the district-wide substitute fill rate has declined to about 75 percent.

Part of the problem, Shibley suggested, is that neighboring school districts have paid better.

Pinellas County starts its substitutes at $70 per day, and goes as high as $135, depending on the school. Hillsborough County’s rates are a bit lower, but similar.

Pasco’s human resources staff crafted a wage rate “so we’re at the very least competitive,” Shibley said.

The issue has more importance for some campuses than others. Schools in certain communities have no problems finding and keeping their “guest teachers,” while others — usually in poorer areas with more difficult situations — often find themselves cajoling current faculty members to give up their planning periods to cover the open classes.

Achieve Center of Pasco, which serves students with behavior problems, faces the most troubles securing subs, Shibley said.

If the School Board approves the raises, the added cost through the end of the year would be about $400,000, according to the district HR department. Shibley said the money is included in the administration’s budget for salary increases, and would not negatively impact the amounts being offered to full-time teachers and school-related personnel through collective bargaining.

“We’re still going to honor the proposals that we’ve put out there to the union,” he said. “And anything we can do to improve those we will continue to do.”

Wages are only one piece of the puzzle, though, Shibley acknowledged. The district still must do more to recruit and retain certified teachers to full-time positions, so substitutes are not needed, he said.

The district also must continue to reduce demands made on teachers that take them out of their classrooms during the school day, he added.

The School Board approved early release days this year for that purpose.

Schools also need to do what they can to improve the climate for the substitutes. One substitute wrote in a recent letter to the editor that welcoming them, including providing employee badges, might help “guest teachers” feel more a part of the schools.

This is not the first time Pasco has experienced a substitute problem.

About five years ago, it increased the pay while also decreasing some of the qualifications. To establish a more friendly environment, the district later renamed substitutes as “guest teachers.”

Pasco also is not alone in its struggle. The Leon County School Board recently boosted its pay by $2 an hour to fight its substitute shortage.

The School Board is scheduled to consider the pay raise at its Nov. 19 meeting.