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While officials from Williamson County Schools are asking the Board of Education to approve pay bonuses for substitute teachers, one board member called the district’s standard rate for subs “a slap in the face.”

During Thursday night’s work session, Superintendent Jason Golden led a discussion among the board on a proposal to offer temporary incentives that would serve to motivate substitute teachers to increase their frequency of taking assignments. Of the approximately 950 subs employed by WCS, only 30% or so work six days or more per month. 

To up the frequency, the district is requesting approval from the board to pay a $100 bonus for substitutes who are working at least seven days per pay period, beginning immediately. Also, it’s seeking approval to pay an additional $200 bonus for substitutes working 50 days or more in a semester, beginning spring semester 2020.

The proposal will come before the members at Monday night’s school board meeting at the Williamson County Administrative Complex at 6:30 p.m.

“There is an ongoing theme among so many schools that the shortage of substitute teachers is really hard on the [regular classroom] teachers,” Golden said, pointing out that WCS has experienced a 5% decrease in substitutes filling daily positions for teacher absences. “So we’ve been brainstorming ways to address that.”

Though members of the board generally acknowledged during the work session that the monetary bonuses could help in the short term, some also stressed that the ongoing shortage of substitute teachers is more of a long-term issue. Board member Candy Emerson, 8th District, was particularly adamant that the rate for subs is out of line for the work they do.

“People I know who are retired and who taught for years in the district, like I did, would be more motivated to see that you appreciate what they bring to every substitute job they take, if you would raise that rate,” she said. “The current rate is a slap in the face.

“They love what they do, but doggone it, they deserve to be paid more. … They’re doing it out of love, but they also need the money, and I think we can do better by them.”

Substitute teacher pay amounts to $4 million in the school district’s annual budget. There are four levels of pay rates for subs, starting at $70 per day for someone with only a high school diploma to a maximum of $100 each day for a certified teacher. The pay for each level increases by $5 after a substitute works for at least 20 full days and another $5 after 50 days. The rate has remained the same for about the last eight years.

“We’ve been talking about this for years, and nothing seems to get done,” said board member Dan Cash, 2nd District. “I would encourage people to really look into this.”

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