Unit 5 to form panel to address substitute teachers’ concerns

Unit 5
Unit 5 school board members backed creating a group to improve working conditions for substitute teachers and other employees. (WJBC file photo)

 

By Howard Packowitz

NORMAL – Unit 5 substitute teachers have made another appeal to the school board for their first pay raise in almost two decades, and the district plans to form a panel to address pay and working conditions.

“We are committed to you, so you should be committed to us,” said Dawn Lehman, one of three Unit 5 substitutes who addressed the school board Wednesday night.

The board gave its blessing to a soon-to-be-formed panel composed of subs, full-time teachers, educational office personnel, and administrators to improve working conditions.

Board member Mike Trask noted Unit 5 is borrowing money and raising property taxes over the next two years to overcome deficits in the education fund, mainly to boost full-time teachers salaries.

“When we talk about substitute pay, and looking at that, any increase just adds to the deficit,” said Trask, who would not rule out future raises for subs.

Unit 5 faces a deficit in the education fund of almost $5.9 million next year. To fill that gap, the board will borrow up to $16.5 million. The bond issue, unanimously approved by the school board Wednesday night, will raise property taxes about $204 for the owner of a $177,000 home in each of the next two years.

Unit 5 substitute Duane Malaney hopes the working group finds ways to make subs feel like they’re appreciated for what they do.

“Maybe the relationship with substitutes could change a little bit, be treated like an employee instead of like a separate species,” Malaney said.

The working group will consider paying subs twice a month like regular teachers, instead of monthly.

Unit 5 subs have made $80 a day since the 2000-2001 school year. Administrators say a $10 daily raise would cost the district about $112,000 from the current education fund expenditure of $1,481,739.

Howard Packowitz can be reached at howard.packowitz@cumulus.com

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