Metro district raises pay for substitute teachers, hopes more apply to help

Fulton County schools raising pay for substitute teachers

A metro school district is trying to entice substitute teachers to help keep schools opened during the pandemic.

Under a plan approved by the Fulton County school board, the daily pay rate for paraprofessional/clinic/clerical substitutes is increasing from $80 to $100; teacher substitute pay is increasing from $100 to $175; and the daily rate for those in long-term substitute assignments is increasing from $120 to $200.

“We recognize the need for substitutes who are invaluable to academic continuity,” Dr. Gyimah Whitaker, the county’s chief deputy academic officer, told Channel 2′s Mike Petchenik. “And so I know that that is a challenge we’re facing here in Fulton, all over the metro area over the nation, just because substitutes are vital.”

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Whitaker said teacher quarantines and illness have left the district scrambling, in some cases, to fill holes.

After Thanksgiving, eight schools didn’t have enough staff members to open, so the district had to send central office staff members to substitute.

“I was a former teacher, many of the people who work in central office are our former teachers,” Whitaker said. “So what I think about is this is an opportunity, it’s actually a great opportunity, because we’re asking our teachers to do something that we haven’t done. We haven’t taught in a COVID environment with simultaneous instruction where you get children online and face-to- face. And so it’s one thing for us to develop a framework is another thing for us to teach in that framework.”

Whitaker said the district is hopeful the pay increase will lure more substitute teachers.

“‘I’ve seen our substitutes in action, even since we’ve increased that opportunity for pay,” she said. “So our subs are taking advantage.”

Petchenik spoke to a substitute teacher who retired after decades in education and began working in Cherokee schools when she moved to Georgia.

“I absolutely loved doing it,” Patty Deigen said. “I was getting a lot of fulfillment from it. The kids loved me, I enjoyed being there.”

But Deigen said when the pandemic hit, she decided the risk wasn’t worth it.

“I’m not going to put myself into that position,” she said.

Deigen told Petchenik she knows the money might entice some teachers who need the money, but she said she doesn’t now.

“It might entice some people, but I wouldn’t,” she said.