Substitute Teachers’ Pay Cut to be Re-Examined by School Board

Teachers say they were promised increases last year, only to find pay cut this year.

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Substitute teacher Jessie Lindsay of Somerset speaks to the school board about the substitutes’ pay cut.

Pressured by two months of lobbying and calls to organize, the Board of Education will take another look at a pay cut that has angered the district’s substitute teachers.

School board president Julia Presley said at the Oct. 17 board meeting that the board’s personnel committee will review an earlier decision to cut the teachers’ per diem pay from as much as $110 to $85 and $95.

The announcement came after a parade of substitute teachers and their supporters once again lambasted the board for its decision, made at the June 25 meeting. Teachers have been showing up at the board meetings since at least the end of August, asking for their pay to be restored.

What’s angered the substitute teachers is what some call a breach of contract. They contend a letter sent to them last summer promised those who worked at least 120 days during the 2012-2013 school year that they would be paid $110 a day for the 2013-2014 year.

The letter also set a three-tier rate for substitutes, ranging from $90 to $110 a day for those with a degree to $80 to $100 for those with 60 credits but no degree.

But the rates that the board approved at its June 25 meeting set a flat rate of $95 a day for teachers with teaching certification and $85 a day for teachers with a substitute certification, according to the meeting’s agenda.

According to the meeting minutes, there was no discussion about the proposal, which emanated from schools Superintendent Edward Seto. All members present at the meeting – board members Delvin Burton and Thomas Lewis were absent – voted for the pay cut, according to the minutes.

One of the substitute teachers, Somerset resident Jessie Lindsay, said that she’s organizing her colleagues, and has a core group of about 50.

“But it’s growing,” she said.

Lindsay said the group is working to gather more supporters and hire an attorney to look at their contract.

“We may go even as far as unionizing,” she said.

Lindsay told the board that the substitute teachers “live in this community, we teach your children and we deserve a sustainable wage that ensures parents that we will be there, day in and day out, familiar and safe faces.”

“If we are paid so poorly, our children may not get the education promised because we will look for better opportunities,” she told the board.

“I am a professional,” Fern Shegoski of Somerset, also a substitute teacher, told the board. “I expect to be respected as a professional.”

“It irks me that I found out by accident that I was not getting the salary I earned last year,” she said. “I turned down lots of travel opportunities because I needed to make my 120 days. I didn’t see family because I needed to make my 120 days.”

Another substitute teacher, Angela Barkley of Somerset, called the pay cut “unfortunate.”

“A lot of us feel it’s not even worth our while to get up” and go to work for that rate, she said.

“Who made this decision?” asked Grace Fitzgerald of Somerset. “Who came up with the idea to cut our pay?”

“We received information from Mr. Seto,” Presley said. “We will take it into our personnel committee.”


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