PITTSBORO — Effective Jan. 1, substitute teachers at Chatham County Schools will get a 30% daily pay raise — the raise required to satisfy the $13 per hour minimum pay rate passed in the new state budget for noncertified school employees.
At the new rate, noncertified substitute daily pay rates will be $104, up from $80; certified substitute pay rates, also raised 30%, will go from $103 to $134. The 30% increase in substitute pay will result in an increase of approximately $275,000 to the current budget.
The district will also extend its signing bonus program for newly hired permanent 11- and 12-month employees through the beginning of the 2022-23 school year, and reinstate the signing bonus for other permanent employees with two-year commitments employed for the 2022-23 school year through December 2022 — $1,500 for classified employees and $3,500 for certified employees.
The policies were approved by the CCS Board of Education at its meeting Monday night.
“Please understand that this move is necessary. But we’re being very cautious on the front end, because it’s going to create compaction in the scale that we’ve got to be prepared to fix,” Superintendent Anthony Jackson told the board of the substitute raises, adding that the district must have the resources to get all employees up to $13 an hour — not just new hires.
“What’s going to end up happening is you’re going to have people who’ve been in those roles for 10 years, earning either the same or sometimes less, as (new) people — that’s what we’re trying to avoid,” he said. “You can’t use temporary money to fix that. So we want to have a commitment that even if we have to use that (money) to start it, then we’ve got to be able to sustain it. I wish we could wave that wand tonight, but I think this first step is to get our substitutes to a place where we’re competitive there and then get our other employees aligned shortly.”
The approval of policies follows a petition from the Chatham County Association of Educators (CCAE) posted the first week of December asking the county’s BOE to use federal relief dollars — the temporary money Jackson referred to — to recruit and retain staff during drastic staffing shortages across the state and county. By the time of the meeting, it received nearly 450 signatures.
That petition calls for an additional $2,750 bonus to be given to every staff member — which would total about $3.3 million of ESSER funds. It also asked for an increase in classified staff wages to more than $15 per hour, until the state wage levels passed in the new budget take full effect.
Lastly, the petition asked for a raise in rate for substitute pay to $130 per day for certified staff with teaching licenses and $100 per day for noncertified staff — which was passed in the district’s proposal on Monday.
CCS had $16.84 million remaining from its more than $22 million COVID-relief-related funds in November; some of its previously approved spending plans include allotments of funds over the next two to three years.
The second round of funding, Elementary & Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER II), must be allocated by Sept. 30, 2023, to be spent by the end of that year, while ESSER III must last until Sept. 30, 2024.
Edward Walgate, a petition organizer and Northwood High School teacher, told the board during public comments that though petition signers appreciate the district’s goal of hiring 68-plus new staff members using ESSER funding, some of the funding should be reallocated to “rewarding existing staff for their efforts.”
“I’ll end by saying that we do not lay all of the challenges that face education at the school board’s door,” Walgate said. “Decades of underfunding at the state and federal level have put us in this difficult situation. But we believe that Chatham County has the ability to improve retention, improve hiring qualified personnel, and improve morale by compensating county staff. Please consider these three asks of nearly 450 educators and ensure that Chatham County remains one of the top school systems in the state.”
Last week, Wake County Schools said it would raise the minimum salary for school support staff to $15 an hour, with higher rates for positions such as instructional assistants and bus drivers. Under that new plan all support staff employees will get at least a 5.3% raise, with the biggest raises of more than 40% going to the lowest-paid workers — increasing the budget by $36 million, Chief Finance Officer Tony Messer told the board Monday.
Though Jackson said the goal is to find ways to implement raises not dependent on COVID-relief funding, additional bonuses for staff could be on the horizon.
“As you know, the ESSER plan was approved prior to my arrival,” he told the board. “And so we are looking at some revisions to that plan that we will be discussing with the board in the next month or so … we might use that funding to execute additional bonuses for staff.”
• During the board’s reorganization, board member Gary Leonard was reelected as chairperson and Del Turner was reelected as the vice chairperson — both unanimously.
• The Chatham County Local Government Department Heads-Up document for 2022-23, which includes information pertaining to the 2022-2023 budget planning process, was approved.
That document includes information on a new supplement model for certified and classified employees, operational increase for the new Central Services building, the $15 per hour minimum wage requirement included in the state budget and appropriations to the Chatham Education Foundation.
“As of today, there are numerous unknown variables that still remain, making the budgeting process somewhat difficult,” the agenda item read. “As the budget season progresses, updates will be available as necessary.”
• The board approved a calendar change for its mid-year retreat. That retreat was scheduled for 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 10, at the Chatham Park Conference Center, but was extended by an extra half day for 1 to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 11, to “accommodate for new superintendent and board relations.”
• The district also presented its plan for remote learning expectations in the event of inclement weather.
CCS can offer remote learning options during inclement weather days for students. Teachers are not required to hold live Zooms, meaning work can be asynchronous. Due to the district’s 1:1 initiative, every student has an electronic device assigned to them. Still, some students don’t have reliable access to internet. To account for that, students have five days after an inclement weather day to turn in work.
The state allows for up to five remote learning days in the 2021-2022 school year calendar.
Reporter Hannah McClellan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @HannerMcClellan.
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