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Rock Springs teacher seeks more pay for substitutes

Rick Wagner • Jan 12, 2020 at 11:30 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — When Rock Springs Elementary second grade teacher Teddi Adler had to take six days off work earlier this school year because her husband got hurt, she followed protocol and sought a substitute teacher to take her place.

However, Sullivan County’s school system could find a teacher for only three days, which Adler said led to her class being split up among her fellow second grade teachers the other three days.

The former president of the Sullivan County Education Association told the Board of Education at its meeting Thursday that the situation was unacceptable but a consequence of the county system not paying substitute teachers enough, compared to other neighboring Northeast Tennessee school systems.

In Hawkins County, Adler said, those not certified as teachers are paid $69.50 a day for substituting and certified subs get $71.50. In Washington County, the amount is $70 across the board, while she said Bristol, Tenn., pays $68 for those with a high school degree and $73 for those with a college degree, she said.

Johnson City pays $70 or $100 for retired teachers, while Kingsport City Schools pays $60 for those with a college degree, $67.50 for those certified as teachers and $100 for retired teachers, Adler said.

WHAT DOES SULLIVAN COUNTY PAY?

“Sullivan County pays $55 for a person with a high school education and $60 for a person with a college degree,” Adler said. “Where would you choose to go?”

Director of Schools David Cox, a Hawkins County native who formally joined the county system in August after moving from Maryland, said he was unaware of the pay discrepancy. However, BOE Chairman Michael Hughes said he is aware of the issue and has wanted to improve sub pay for a while.

“We need to look at raising our substitutes’ pay,” Adler said.

She suggested using the fund balance of the school system, money that is like a surplus or savings account usually reserved for emergencies or unexpected expenses. However, Hughes said using such one-time money for recurring expenses is not a good fiscal practice but that he supports the increase Adler is seeking.

“That’s been on my list of things to do for a long time,” Hughes said. “We do need to raise the pay for subs.”

WHAT OTHER ISSUES OCCUR?

Adler said in another Sullivan County school, an absent teacher for which no sub could be found resulted in a classroom with more than 40 students and not enough desks. She said students had to sit on the floor and do their schoolwork, something she asked parents in the room if they would want for their children.

She said in some situations teaching assistants take over teacher duties when a teacher is absent and no substitutes can be found, but Adler noted that in those situations it can take two assistants per school day because they work less than a full day so the school system doesn’t have to offer them health insurance and other benefits.

Making assistants into temporary teachers takes them away from their duties, which Adler said would go undone while they are teaching.