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Substitute Teachers Again Press for Pay Hike Restoration Already Nixed by Superintendent

11-21-13 school board meetingAbout three dozen of the district’s substitute teachers showed up at the Nov. 21 Board of Education meeting to once again ask that the pay hike they were promised last year be put into effect.

The teachers have been showing up regularly since September, asking the board to reverse a June decision to cut their per day pay by as much as $15.

But at the one meeting the teachers did not attend – the Nov. 14 board workshop meeting – Gail Reicheg, the district’s personnel director – laid out the administration’s case for not restoring the promised pay increases.

And after that meeting, schools Superintendent Edward Seto said that he would not be making a recommendation to honor the substitute’s request.

“We don’t have the budget for it,” Seto said at the time. “Not that it’s not important, but we have even more pressing staffing needs.”

Still, at the Nov. 21 meeting, board president Julia Presley told the teachers that the board’s personnel committee is discussing the issue.

“There are things we can’t do at this time,” she said.

What’s angered the substitute teachers is what some call a breach of contract. They contend a letter sent to them in the summer of 2012 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, 2013 board 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.

At the Nov. 14 workshop session, Reicheg said the board’s attorney determined there was no breach of contract over the 2012 letter sent to substitutes.

“There was no breach of contract,” she told the board. “The statement that the speaker referenced was issued to substitute teachers prior to the start of the 2012-13 school year. The statement that the speaker referenced was not issued to substitute teachers for the current school year.”

“Substitute teachers were notified via letter in August that the substitute rates in 2013-2014 were changed,” she said.

Reicheg said the estimated cost of raising the per diem rate of substitute teachers who worked at least 120 days in 2012-2013 is $139,120.

A handful of teachers addressed the board at the Nov. 21 meeting, asking for the promised pay hike to be restored.

Fern Shegoski of Somerset said substitutes are not being treated fairly.

“We’re not in a union, so nobody has to talk to us,” she said.

“What happens when you make more money working in a McDonald’s or a Burger King than you do as a teacher in a public school?” she asked.

Maria Black of Somerset, a high school teacher, spoke in support of the substitutes.

“I’d like to personally thank the substitutes who have covered my classes the last seven years,” she said.

“$110 is not a lot of money,” Black said. “We certainly find money for a lot of other things.”

At the conclusion of about an hour’s worth of statements, Presley told a resident that the board could only act on the recommendations of Seto.

“this board can only take action on recommendations from the superintendent,” she said. “We have to wait for it to become an agenda item.”

Seto did not attend the Nov. 21 meeting.

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