Faced with a historic number of classroom vacancies that is a statewide norm, some of St. Joseph’s elected education leaders say additional investment in its staff is overdue.
School board member David Foster said now is the time to increase salaries for all educator positions. Asked how much money might be available for this, Foster said this will need to be determined at future board meetings.
The idea is that vacancies will decrease if working for the district is more desirable for full-time staff.
“I am not speaking for the board, but I started the conversation about a salary increase for teachers and staff because that is just one of the factors that go into what I call fairness of the board. staff, ”Foster said. “I recognize the correlation between staff appreciation, compensation and retention. I believe in investing in our teachers… It will bring us closer to being a sought-after district for families and teachers.”
Kenneth Reeder, Foster’s colleague since they were elected together in April, said he had put the replacement salary increase on the board’s agenda, “just for the sake of discussion” .
Reeder’s goal is $ 155 per day, compared to $ 95 per day, for a short-term replacement. This would cost the district more than $ 600,000 per year, but for Reeder, this is “insignificant” compared to the total annual expenditure of around $ 140 million, most of which is associated with various personnel costs. The council then meets at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, November 22, at the downtown district office.
“With this small movement and an insignificant amount of funds, we will strengthen the most important aspect of our district, and that is the lack of people in the classroom,” said Reeder.
Classroom vacancies are nothing new. According to district records, the 2018-19 academic year – a benchmark as it was the last full semester of class completed before COVID-19 – had a vacancy fill rate of 86.2%, leaving 1,708 vacant positions not recorded during the year.
The rate of unfilled vacancies effectively doubled during the pandemic. St. Louis Public Radio reported in October that in some districts of Show Me State, the fill rate has collapsed to about 50%.
Observing similar trends statewide, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has taken various steps, such as allowing potential substitutes to take 20 hours of online training to earn substitute teacher certification. Previously, college credit hours representing more than 500 hours of real-time study had to be completed.
The St. Joseph School District retained the services of EDUStaff, LLC of Grand Rapids, Michigan, to meet its needs. Repeated appeals to EDUStaff for advice on the current trend in vacancies have not been returned. EDUStaff, not the District, is the employer and supervisor of all SJSD submarines. A district official said on Friday that attempts to find a substitute teacher able to interview for the story were unsuccessful.
Reeder said he believes a pay rise to $ 155 a day would justify reinstating the old staff training standard. In this sense, the district can expect high quality candidates and compensate them accordingly.
“Reducing the training requirements to fill the positions now was not the right way to go,” he said. “We should have increased the salary, maintained high standards in the classroom for the safety and benefit of our students.”