Up-Island schools deal with substitute teacher shortage

Board plans to raise the pay rate to attract and retain more subs. 

West Tisbury School and Chilmark School will increase pay for substitute teachers in an effort to improve attracting candidates and retainment. — Stacey Rupolo

Substitute teachers who work at or plan to teach at an up-Island school will be seeing a pay increase from $90 to $120 per day. 

During the up-Island school committee meeting Monday, Superintendent Matthew D’Andrea introduced a proposal to increase the pay for substitutes as a way to attract and retain more candidates. 

“We have found it very challenging this year to find substitute teachers,” D’Andrea said. “Because we are having to solve our substitute teachers [shortage] in-house, it is adding an added pressure on our staff.”

D’Andrea said the $90 a day pay rate was established about nine years ago. He reached out to other Cape and Islands school districts to find out what substitutes are paid there. The districts D’Andrea presented to the committee all paid their substitutes over $100 a day, the lowest is Barnstable at $110 a day, and the highest is Nantucket, which pays $150 a day. After seeing what other districts were paying, what up-Island schools’ unionized teachers were being paid, and discussing it with the Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools administrative team, the appropriate pay was calculated to be $120 per day. D’Andrea asked the committee to consider the pay raise for the remaining and next school year.

“It is an immediate need,” D’Andrea said. “We have budgeted the FY22, the current budget, on the $90, but this is an issue that needs immediate attention, and I’m hoping that an increase immediately will help to alleviate some of this pressure.” 

D’Andrea said the pool of substitutes are people on the Island. To work as a substitute in the up-Island school district, an individual needs to be a high school graduate, pass an interview process, work well with students, and go through an orientation. 

“We’re trying to build back our substitute list. At the end of August, my substitute list and Susan’s substitute list had one person,” West Tisbury Principal Donna Lowell Bettencourt said, referring to her colleague, Chilmark Principal Susan Stevens. “One person who was also available for all of the other schools to be a substitute. We’re trying to get retired staff back. They know the schools; they’re wonderful with kids. They’re a win if we can get them back in. Over $100 sounded good to a lot of them, $90 sounded just not.”

Committee member Kate DeVane pointed out that if the $120 per day pay is approved and another town, such as Oak Bluffs, decides to go with a different rate, it would “open a whole can of worms.” She thinks pay is an issue that should be discussed with the rest of the Island’s schools. Committee chair Alex Salop agreed with this sentiment. 

Assistant Superintendent Richie Smith said this was on the previous All-Island School Committee agenda, but they could not get to it in time. “Not having a substitute is frankly a bit of a new trend, and I just think there’s post-pandemic residual things that keep happening, like the lack of bus drivers and such,” Smith said. 

The committee voted 4-1 to support the $120 a day pay, contingent on the other Island town’s schools paying the same rate. Committee member Skipper Manter was the one dissenting vote, expressing concerns over the lack of hard data and impact on the budget. 


  1. Want to make less than 30k after taxes, be a substitute teacher after the awesome and generous raise! I do believe you will still have , no substitutes.

  2. What a joke. Inexcusable! They can’t even pay as much as Falmouth? The pathetic offer of $120 isn’t going to entice anyone. You people are completely out of touch with the real world.

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