Danville Express

Newsfront - October 19, 2007

Subs lined up for cold season

School district raises rates for substitute teachers

by Natalie O'Neill

Long-term substitute teachers are finding jobs in the San Ramon Valley Unified School District more attractive, thanks to an increase in payment rates.

A back-to-school review of raised day-to-day rates showed the hike drew over 30 more guest teachers to the district than last year.

With cold and flu season approaching, having plenty of qualified subs on hand is important for keeping students engaged and teachers healthy, said Roberta Silverstein, assistant superintendent. It also helps keeps staff teachers from getting "burnt out," she said.

"There are a number of teachers who are worried about who is covering their classes. We wouldn't want them to not be able to take a sick day because they are worried about that," said Silverstein.

The rates were bumped up $20 per day, from $120 to $140, for subs who stick around 11 days or more.

This incentive is good for classes with, for example, younger teachers on maternity leave or older teachers with a more severe sickness, she said. Having one stable teacher as opposed to several coming and going makes for a stronger learning environment.

"We try to have the concept that the teaching continues on and the expectations are still there," Silverstein said, of the substitute classroom environment.

For guest teachers who stay less than 11 days, the payment is $95 dollars per day, and those who stay more than 60 days earn $160 per day.

Substitute teachers must have a bachelor's degree, a California Basic Educational Skills Test card or waiver, and special training depending on the grade level and subject.

But while there's a checklist for qualifications, sometimes what makes a great sub isn't something that can be learned by studying for a test. Subs who have mastered the social classroom dynamic - a skill that comes naturally to some and not to others - make the really exceptional teachers, Silverstein said.

Understanding the delicate balance between holding an air of authority and relating to the students is part of what makes a big difference, she noted.

"I think it's a really challenging job; you don't have that established relationship," she said.

"We look for someone who can connect with the students - someone who likes the students and responds to them, can maintain the learning environment, and yet not be so authoritarian that they scare the kids," she explained.

Repeating subs generally prefer to stick to fewer than three schools, in order to get familiar with the kids and the culture of each campus. In general, subs in the district tend to be teachers who moved to the area after the school year started, retired teachers and people who just want part time work.

As this school year progresses, the district may consider offering incentives for guest teachers at schools that are more difficult to drive to - like Dougherty Valley High School and Live Oak Elementary. The district has the ability to raise rates at only certain schools, if need be.

For now, though, the district feels prepared with 543 subs registered.

"We're doing pretty well on subs as the cold season begins," Silverstein said.

Contact Natalie O'Neill at noneill@danvilleweekly.com


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