GREAT FALLS — The Great Falls Public Schools (GFPS) Board of Trustees approved a pay raise for substitute teachers at a scheduled meeting last Tuesday, signaling new efforts to recruit and retain more substitute teachers — who were largely sidelined during the online spring semester — in preparation for the uncertainty of the upcoming school year.
At a special board meeting held last Thursday, the board also approved a draft plan to move forward with a hybrid instruction model for the 2020-2021 academic year. It will include face-to-face instruction and a remote learning option for students and families — but not teachers.
Although the district increases teacher wages every year, substitutes are not always included in those raises, since GFPS employs only a handful of full-time and long-term substitutes.
Currently, most substitutes work seven-hour days and are paid anywhere from $75 to $80 per day. Last week, the board increased the daily rate to range between $90 and $115, depending on licensure and time in the district.
In anticipation of increased teacher absences, substitutes will likely play larger instructional roles this year, district officials said.
Last Tuesday’s decision was made possible by the passage of the 2020 elementary operational levy, which included funding for teacher salaries, and was the first raise for substitutes since 2016. It will come out of the district’s general fund.
GFPS Human Resources Directors Kerry Dattilo proposed the measure. In any given year, filling teacher absences is a tough job, she said — but next year will be a challenge of its own.
“Anticipating this next school year as being pretty unique, we’re anticipating more absences from staff in general,” Dattilo said. “And so the need to recruit and have a more robust group of individuals that we can select from in filling the shifts, we think is going to be very important.”
During a regular school year, the district employs about 750 teachers with about 60 absences per day, according to Dattilo.
Several substitute teachers praised the move. They also asserted that the job is much more to them than just a paycheck.
“Subbing has its own rewarding in every way, except financial,” said substitute teacher Maryke Nel Ozog, who has been with the district since 2012. “The raise is much appreciated, so I was surprised and delighted.”
With two kids in college, substitute teacher and paraprofessional Sandy Schmidt Pepos said the pay is a good influence on her home life, but that’s not why she does it.
“It’s not about just the pay,” said Pepos. “It’s about being there for students and building a relationship.”
The pay increase will go into effect August 1.