The Jackson R-2 School Board approved a raise in substitute teacher pay, from $80 to $90 per day, in response to a shortage of substitutes across the District.
Associate Superintendent Dr. Matt Lacy said that the District has not been able to fill 10 percent of substitute requests over the last two months.
Usually an unfilled substitute request results in classroom aides or other District staff filling in, but one time this school year, an elementary class was split up and divided into three other classrooms.
“Imagine starting the day with 22 or 23 kids, and then you get seven more kids in your classroom that you aren’t really familiar with,” Lacy said. “Because we can’t get a substitute, it’s not a quality day of instruction and learning.”
The District has tried other solutions to its substitute shortage including aggressive advertising online and moving substitute training to evening hours to accommodate those who substitute teach in other Districts during the day. The District is also working on a partnership with Southeast Missouri State University to help with the situation. Lacy said these plans have helped somewhat, but the District still does not have enough substitutes to cover all classes.
The District last changed the pay for substitutes to $80 starting in the 2016-17 school year. Before that, the pay stayed at $70 for many years.
Lacy said two neighboring Districts already have a rate of $90 a day. Cape Girardeau Public Schools currently pay substitutes $75 a day or $85 if they have a bachelor’s or master’s degree. They also have an incentive program where if a substitute works 10 days a month, they get a $100 bonus.
Board members asked Lacy to look into paying substitutes with teaching certificates more than those who don’t. K-12 substitutes in Missouri are not required to have a completed degree or a teaching certificate — they are only required to have 60 college credit hours.
The idea of hiring a few full-time substitute teachers that would move between schools each day was also brought up by the Board. Lacy said he did know of some districts in St. Louis that have these positions, but that it wouldn’t solve the problem of needing more substitutes on high-need days.
The District averages 15-20 substitutes per day across the District, but needs substitutes mainly on Mondays and Fridays. Lacy said this is partially due to coaches having to leave early for games and when teachers use their professional development days.
Lacy said he has talked to other districts that have changed to the $90. According to that research, once the change was made, the districts were able to fill the majority of their substitute classrooms.
“It can be a rewarding job but it’s not an easy job,” Lacy said. “You have to actively supervise students and the tough thing is that you aren’t there long enough to form a rapport.”
The $10 difference will go into effect in January, and is expected to cost an additional $48,000 for the district this school year. Director of Finance Terry Gibson said that amount will feasible for the district this year and the change can be put in next year’s budget.
In other action:
• The board heard a presentation on the Orchard Boys Boot Camp. Physical education teacher Josh Roach and several students spoke to the board about the goals of the boot camp and this years theme – grit. The program educated around 26 boy over four weeks on fitness and character-building.
• Students from two teachers in the district participated in the ninth annual Global Read Aloud. High School freshmen in Ashley Raney’s classes and fourth graders at West Lane Elementary School in Hannah Robinson’s class were read aloud books that students from across the world were reading during the same time period.
The fourth graders read “A Boy Called Bat” by Elana K. Arnold. The book is centered around a boy on the autism spectrum and the baby skunk that he tries to take care of.
The high schoolers read “Refugee” by Alan Gratz. That book tells the stories of three young people who go on harrowing journeys in search of safety. The novel tells the story of a Jewish boy in 1930s Nazi Germany, a Cuban girl in 1994 and a Syrian boy in 2015.
Both groups of students were able to connect with other students internationally who were reading the same books, through Flipgrids, Google Hangouts and mystery calls.
Since it’s inception, over four million student from more than 80 countries have participated. The teachers and students who read this year hope more classes in the district will take part in the Global Read Aloud next year.
• The board approved changes to seven board policies. Most changes were to better reflect federal and state laws. Changes to the policies include stating that staff members are now only allowed to be absent 20 days instead of 40 days per school year before they can be disciplined, the designation of a liaison for helping homeless students, additional guidelines for providing programs for migratory students and updating the definition of an English learner to match the federal definition.
• In December, the Jackson R-2 School District Foundation gave away $50,000 through their Teaching and Learning Grant program. Foundation Director Merideth Pobst said that is the biggest amount given out in the program’s history. This year, the foundation was able to fill 70 percent of the requests.
The Red and Black Affair, which helps raise money for the grants, is scheduled for Feb. 2. Tickets for the gala are available by visiting or calling the district office.
• The district approved posting a notice for bids for the district depository. The goal is to approve a depositary of the moneys and funds of the school district by March.
• The Jan. 8 school board meeting will be in the J-Wing addition at the high school. The district is looking into renovating the board office, and this will be a test to see if board meeting could be held elsewhere during the renovations. The meeting will be on the first floor and visitors are advised to enter under the “J” on the outside of the wing.