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Smith requests raise for Nevis substitute teachers

The Nevis School Board agreed to review a request for an increase in pay for substitute teachers, from the current $90 to $100 per day.

Linda Smith broached the subject this week, noting that as a substitute for the district for the past eight years, she's witnessed just one increase, from $80 per day to $90 in 2001.

"Since 2002, the substitute teachers at Nevis have not received any increase in salary, although I believe every other staff member has had yearly increases, at least until the 2009-10 school year when some of the staff's were frozen," she wrote in a memo to the board.

Smith noted the school day was increased by 22 minutes, without additional remuneration. (The teaching staff did not receive an increase.)

"Bus drivers are making more per hour than substitute teachers," she said.

The district averages three substitutes per day, which does not include two-hour subs who fill in for staff leaving early for sports and other co-curriculars, superintendent Steve Rassier said.

"As you are all aware, the job of a substitute teacher is a difficult one," Smith wrote. "We often respond to a phone call at 6 to 6:30 a.m. from the school secretaries, drop any plans we may have had and come in for a day or days of teaching."

And she pointed out hazardous duty role of substitute teachers.

"Students often display behavior toward a substitute they would never exhibit toward their regular teachers. We also do not benefit from background information on special needs or emotionally-behaviorally disturbed students and come into a classroom having to deal with emotional and/or physical outbursts at times, in addition to the normal acting out students attempt when they have a substitute teacher," Smith wrote in the memo to board members.

"I don't think there's another employee who's gone eight years without a raise," she said, noting teachers see an increase of 4 or 5 percent annually. "I don't think this will break the bank."

Smith suggested the board confer with school secretaries on the issue. "They are finding less and less people willing to sub."

Sherm Anderson suggested the negotiations committee explore the issue and submit a recommendation.

"It will create a fiscal impact," board chair Ed Becker said.

"I enjoy it," Smith said. "But I want to be treated as fairly as the rest of the staff."

In other action, the board:

-Agreed to enter into a contract with Construction Analysis and Management, Inc. of Brainerd to analyze the needs for upgrades to the mechanical ventilation system in the school.

-Accepted a $9,000 donation from 3M Corporation for the school's robotics team.

-Approved Leah Walters as assistant girls basketball coach.

-Approved a list of 15 substitute teachers.

-Reviewed the district's anticipated general fund revenue, which includes $337,890 in federal stimulus funds in lieu of state dollars.

Rassier expressed concern with this, noting school districts could face a funding crunch when the state must provide funds again. "The fund balance could be significantly reduced," he cautioned.

An increase in basic skills funding, from $299,000 last year to $475,000 this year, offset losses due to lower student enrollment, he said. The district anticipates $375,000 next year.

"But what happens next year with reduced state aid?" he asked, rhetorically.