If you’re a current subscriber, log in below. If you would like to subscribe, please click the subscribe tab above.
Username and Password Help
By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — Not only is there a shortage of teachers these days, but there is also a shortage of substitute teachers.
To help the Colfax school district remain competitive with other school districts in the area, the Colfax Board of Education approved increasing substitute teacher pay to $120 per day at the September 16 meeting.
In the last couple of weeks, the topic of substitute teacher pay has surfaced again, said William C. Yingst, Jr., school district administrator.
The Colfax substitute teacher pay of $110 per day approved in 2014 made Colfax one of the highest paying districts in the area for substitute teachers, along with Eau Claire and Elk Mound, he said.
It has taken eight years after Act 10 to see a shortage of teachers and substitute teachers, Yingst said.
Act 10, signed into law by former Governor Scott Walker, all but eliminated public sector unions and reduced teachers’ take-home pay — as well as the take-home pay of all public employees — by increasing the amount paid out of their salaries for health insurance and retirement benefits.
Depending upon the subject area, in years past, school districts could expect to receive 50, 100 or even as many as 200 applications for an open position.
Now school districts are lucky if they receive a couple of applications, and in some instances, they receive no applications at all for their open teaching positions.
Yingst said he had discussed substitute teacher pay with administrators in Menomonie and Elk Mound, and school boards in both districts were going to receive a recommendation to increase substitute teacher pay to $120 per day.
To stay competitive, Yingst said he also was recommending a $10 increase to $120 per day.
“Our subs are worth it,” he said.
The Elk Mound Board of Education did, in fact, increase substitute teacher pay to $120 per day at the regular meeting September 16.
Another factor to consider is that Menomonie is going to have up to 12 people taking family leave this year, and the school district is concerned there will not be enough substitute teachers available, Yingst said.
“Our closest neighbors are going to $120 per day,” he said.
Todd Kragness, school board president, wondered how hard it has been for Colfax to get substitute teachers.
So far this year — it was more difficult last year, said John Dachel, Colfax High School principal.
The elementary school is having more difficulty this year, said Trevor Hovde, Colfax Elementary principal.
Christie Hill, school board member, asked if substitute teachers tend to be loyal to a particular school district.
“It depends on how many calls they get,” Dachel said.
Dachel noted when he calls substitute teachers to see if they are available for the day, many of them have already accepted assignments in another school district.
Several school board members asked about the “deadline” for teachers to ask for a substitute teacher.
“We ask them to give as much notice as possible,” Yingst said, adding that teachers do not have control over certain aspects of their lives, such as when they are going to become ill or when their own children are ill.
Based on the number of substitute teachers that were needed last year, increasing the substitute teacher pay from $110 per day to $120 per day would increase the amount of money paid for substitute teachers by $4,200 for the year, Yingst said.
Kragness asked how far substitute teachers are driving to work in Colfax.
Some come from Menomonie, and some are local, Dachel said.
Colfax may want to consider paying mileage in the future, Kragness said.
“It may come to that. It’s a matter of supply and demand,” Yingst said.
Jodi Kiekhafer, school board member, asked how much teachers’ aides are paid in the Colfax school district.
Aides receive $15 per hour, Yingst said.
Ken Neuburg, school board member, asked about the rate for a half day of substitute teaching.
The half day rate would be $60, Yingst said.
The Colfax Board of Education unanimously approved a motion to increase substitute teacher pay from $110 per day to $120 per day to remain competitive with other school districts in the area.
Among the other business items on the agenda, the Colfax Board of Education approved hiring Tim Devine again this year as the alternative eduction/GEDO interventionist/Distance Learning teacher — and also approved hiring James Woodford as a half-time band teacher.
Woodford retired at the end of the 2018-2019 school year.
Colfax has had three music teachers for many years, and after the mandatory 75 day “break” following his retirement, Woodford agreed to come back half time for the school year, Yingst said.
Derek Westholm, who had been teaching elementary school music and directing the middle school band, is now doing fifth and sixth grade band and the high school band, and Woodford is now directing the middle school band, he said.
“We’re doing this as a trial … (to see) if it’s feasible to continue,” Yingst said.
If it turns out not to be feasible to have two full-time music teachers and one half-time, then the Colfax school district will advertise the job much earlier. In May when Woodford announced his retirement, the “clock was already running” on hiring another music teacher, he said.
Music teachers will be graduating from the universities in December and in May, Yingst noted.
Dachel said he had talked to Woodford on Friday and that Woodford likes the new schedule and “loves working with the kids.”
The Colfax Board of Education unanimously approved hiring Devine and Woodford.
In other business, the Colfax Board of Education:
• Learned that kitchen updates have been completed at the elementary school and the middle school/high school. The updates included new walk-in coolers, stainless steel food preparation tables, dishwashers and garbage disposals. The school district is allowed to keep only a certain balance in the food service account. Many of the pieces of equipment that were replaced were 20, 30 or 40 years old, Yingst said.
• Approved the energy efficiency exemption of $179,569 with $20,849 in utility savings. The energy efficiency projects were completed in the 2014-2015 school year. The amount of utility savings now is subtracted from the amount of state aid school districts receive, Yingst said. For the first four years, the money was not deducted from state aid, he said. The school districts “go to all the effort” of updating for energy efficiency, “but now we lose the aid.” While losing the state is something over which school districts have no control — “I don’t have to like it,” Yingst said.