standing Westerly school bus

WESTERLY — The School Committee has increased pay for substitute teachers in an effort to find more of them and with the hope of reducing expenses that accrue when regular teachers cover additional classes when substitutes cannot be found.

The committee voted unanimously during its Sept. 11 meeting to increase the base pay from $80 to $100 per day for per diem substitutes, and from $100 to $120 per day for long-term substitutes. The committee also approved other incremental increases based on substitute teachers’ longevity and how many days per year they work in the district.

The district’s previous pay rate for substitutes was less than what substitutes receive in the Chariho school district as well as in Coventry, Exeter-West Greenwich and South Kingstown. The new rate is $5 to $15 more than what substitutes receive in those districts.

“This proposal [to increase the pay] comes by virtue of the fact that we struggle to get substitute teachers to come to the district. The human resources office and others do the best they can to promote and we’re always trying to actively recruit available substitute teachers,” Superintendent of Schools Mark Garceau said.

Garceau attributed the difficulty finding substitute teachers to the town’s remote location as compared with the rest of the state.

When substitutes are not found, classes are split over the remaining teachers in a particular grade which usually results in the regular teachers receiving extra pay. Teachers in upper grades sometimes give up their planning periods to cover as substitute teachers. Under terms of their contract, teachers who give up their planning periods receive extra pay, Garceau said.

In addition to increasing pay for substitutes, which Garceau called a pilot effort, he said administrators are considering working with an agency that provides substitute teachers. The agency would most likely charge more than the new district rate for substitutes but the total cost would still be less than what the district spends when regular teachers are used to cover for the shortage of substitutes, Garceau said.

“I like the multi-pronged approach to figure out what works best for us,” said Dianne Chiaradio Bowdy, School Committee chairwoman.

Marissa Iannella, the district’s human resources coordinator, said officials are also looking into developing a training session for substitutes as a means to help attract and retain more candidates.

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