The Daytona Beach News-Journal | By Nikki Ross | October 28, 2021
To combat the shortage of teachers and support staff in Volusia County Schools, the school board Tuesday approved an increase in pay for substitute teachers.
The 4-1 vote bumped substitutes’ pay from $10 to $13.50 an hour.
The school board also approved a school-based substitute for each school. Each principal will appoint one substitute who can either accept the pay increase or accept $11.50 an hour with health and retirement benefits. This substitute will report daily to the chosen school.
“We’re trying to do everything we can to make this attractive,” said Mark West, chief human resources officer for Volusia County Schools. “In order to ensure we have enough adults on campus, we need to think outside of the box.”
School board member Carl Persis was the lone dissenting vote, and said he doesn’t think offering benefits with less pay is enough of an incentive for a substitute to commit to working five days a week.
“I don’t think there’s an incentive for a person to do it every day,” Persis said. “If you want to incentivize, it would be better to pay them more than less with benefits.”
The district typically has about 82% of the substitutes it needs on any given day and has been working with outside staffing companies to help increase that number. However, the cost of using one of these companies would have totaled $1.9 million, while the approved pay rate change, including benefits, will cost the district $800,000.
“We feel this is a more cost-effective way of rewarding our employees,” West said.
The cost of hiring a substitute at the higher pay rate of $13.50 an hour or at $11.50 an hour with benefits is the same, according to West.
But some, including longtime school district volunteer Kim Short and Volusia United Educators President Elizabeth Albert, spoke at the meeting, stating the district should focus on hiring more paraprofessionals and support staff instead of raising the wage for substitute teachers, who only need a high school diploma or bachelor’s degree.
“What happens when we have folks who are well-intentioned but are not certified teachers? They make mistakes,” Albert said. “We should be solely focused on finding teachers and support staff. We are skewing where our vision should be.”
Just a month into the school year, the district reported 77 classroom teacher vacancies and 31 non-classroom instructional vacancies (such as media center specialists, counselors or academic coaches). It also had 129 support position vacancies, 100 of which were for paraprofessionals, or employees who work to support students with special needs in the classrooms.
“I think you are focused on the wrong area,” Short said, stating that the district should focus on hiring paraprofessionals. “I think you’re spending your money wrong.”
West said the district will discuss its plan for hiring paraprofessionals at the next school board meeting.