Fill-in teachers may get raise

Officials recommend increasing substitutes' pay to ease shortages

Other steps also considered

July 28, 1999|By Erika D. Peterman | Erika D. Peterman,SUN STAFF

Faced with a shortage of substitute teachers and competition from surrounding counties, the Howard County school system might offer substitutes a pay raise and continue some pilot programs designed to ease the crunch.

Those were some of the recommendations officials offered school board members last night in a report about the school system's use of temporary instructors.

Howard County called on substitute teachers 37,096 times last year and 38,297 times during the 1997-1998 school year.

Kirk Thompson, a human resources specialist for the county schools, said the shortage of substitute teachers is parallel with the overall shortage of teaching candidates.

Last year, 2,794 substitute requests went unfilled.

"If there are not enough teachers, there are usually not enough substitute teachers," Thompson said.

While the school system has taken a number of steps to reduce teacher absences and to attract substitutes -- including offering bonuses for long-term substitutes and restricting staff development activities for teachers when substitutes are most scarce -- Thompson suggested extra steps to fill the need.

Among the suggestions for the 1999-2000 school year:

Offer a salary increase for substitute teachers and pay them twice a month instead of once a month. Superintendent Michael E. Hickey said he would offer salary suggestions at the next school board meeting. Substitute teachers with a college degree are now paid $65 a day.

Extend the $93-a-day pay incentive to all retired teachers on the substitute list, not just teachers retired from the Howard County school system.

Continue a pilot program that allows instructional assistants to act as substitute teachers. Eleven schools participated in the experiment during the 1998-1999 school year, offering assistants an extra $32.50 a day for substituting, in addition to their regular pay.

Continue a limited high school pilot program that pays classroom teachers for voluntarily covering classes for which substitutes are unavailable.

Also at last night's meeting:

The board received a report that Howard County students continued to perform well on the Maryland Functional Tests for sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth and 11th grades in subjects such as reading, math, writing and citizenship. The county's ninth-graders met the "excellent" standard in reading, math and writing last school year.

However, board members expressed concern about those students who fail to pass the functional tests by the time they get to high school.

Board member Sandra H. French said educators might need to look at requiring students to attend summer school if they continue to fail the tests in middle school.

"As long as they are allowed to go to high school, there is no wake-up call that is going to be significant," French said. "We need to help these students get on track."

Stephen C. Bounds, vice chairman of the board, agreed.

"I think it's something we seriously need to look at," Bounds said. "I think we've got to get it fixed in middle school. When you start remediating for elementary-level work in high school, there's something wrong with that picture."

The board discussed proposed changes to the school system dress code, including a formal definition of attire. Though an equity panel spent time discussing ethnic or cultural clothing, no references to it appear in the revised version of the dress code.

Last year, Shermia Isaacs -- then a pupil at Harper's Choice Middle School -- clashed with school officials over her desire to wear a head wrap to school. She and her mother, Stacey Isaacs, maintained that the head wrap was cultural attire, indicative of their Jamaican roots.

Isaacs had to leave school when she refused to remove the cloth.

Hickey said it was his decision to leave ethnic dress out of the code, saying such a provision could be left open to a variety of interpretations.

"That was the one that received the most careful deliberation," he said.

The board will hold a public hearing on the proposed dress code Aug. 26 and vote on it Sept. 9.

Pub Date: 7/28/99

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