The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) committee during its regular meeting Monday voted to increase the daily pay for substitute teachers from $90 to $120, contingent on other Island school districts also approving the adjustment.
According to Superintendent Matt D’Andrea, it has been challenging for schools to find substitute teachers, especially at the high school.
“We have very few on our list, and we have been looking at ways to find additional substitute teachers,” D’Andrea said. “We have advertised for folks to come in, and we have also looked at other ways we might incentivise individuals to sub.”
Currently, Island schools pay substitute teachers $90 per day — a rate that was established about eight or nine years ago, according to D’Andrea.
MVRHS administrators looked into what nearby school districts of similar size are paying their subs — Falmouth is paying $130 per day, Nantucket is paying $150, Bourne is paying $120, and Barnstable is paying $110.
“It’s probably time for us to start looking at increasing our sub pay. Perhaps that will also help us to recruit more subs,” D’Andrea said.
D’Andrea suggested increasing the daily pay rate for subs from $90 to $120, based on surrounding sub salaries, and what the high school is currently paying its education support personnel.
The Up-Island School District has already voted to approve the increase to $120, but all the remaining districts must approve the change for it to go into effect.
School budgets are already finalized (with the original $90 per day rate) as the rate change is being proposed, D’Andrea said, and the school is spending additional money to have in-school staff cover substitute positions that aren’t being filled.
“We have not had to hit our daily sub line to date, because we don’t have as many subs that can come in, so we have had to utilize in-school staff to cover when individuals are out,” he said.
This year, the sub line was budgeted at about $91,272. As of now, there is still around $67,648 in that line item.
MVRHS Principal Sara Dingledy said if the high school can’t find a sub, it will put out a call to full-time teachers to give up their prep time and cover individual class periods at a rate of $50 per period.
“When you calculate that, it’s actually more expensive if we have to go that route, and teachers have to give up their prep time,” Dingledy said, noting that taking prep time from teachers impacts student learning.
One long-term sub covering a teacher who is out on maternity leave has made up the bulk of the expenditures in that line, with a total salary of $21,000.
Dingledy said sometimes with a long-term sub, there will be savings in the teacher salary budget that the school will transfer over to the costs of subs.
Committee member Kathryn Shertzer said she is concerned about the sudden significant increase, noting that it amounts to about a 30 percent increase for that line item.
“Maybe it’s our error not examining this more frequently than eight or nine years ago. I’m not saying we shouldn’t approve the increase, but all at once is a lot,” Shertzer said.
Committee member Skipper Manter said he thinks going up to $120 would break the trust the towns have with the school districts in spending local tax dollars. He said there is no way to know if increasing the salary for subs will draw more people to apply for the position.
“We need to find out if money is the issue here, because we could end up increasing this and then it wouldn’t solve the issue,” Manter said.
Island school business administrator Mark Friedman said the current rate of $90 for a 6¾-hour school day sits right at the minimum wage line in Massachusetts, and might even be slightly under.
“We are very low,” Friedman said.
The committee voted to approve the pay increase for subs, contingent on approval of all other school districts. Manter was the lone dissenting vote.