District quietly takes away what it had given teachers

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Substitute teachers at the Sweetwater Union High School District are upset with the district for cutting their salary without providing them advance notice or explanation.

In an effort to remain competitive with other school districts, over a year ago the school district provided substitute teachers with a temporary raise.

The increase had them earning about $125 per day for those days they taught five periods, or $150 a day for days they taught six periods.

But in July, substitute teachers got their pay reduced back to $115 a day for teaching five classes without a prep period or $138 per day for teaching six classes at a middle school or high school.

Linda O’Carroll, a retired Sweetwater district teacher, has substituted for the last four years, and said she wasn’t aware that the district had reduced her salary until she heard it from other substitutes, not the district.

“That was highly unprofessional and not treating people well because … people believed they were making the same amount of money,” she said.

O’Carroll, who teaches reading, history and math, said upon hearing about the reduction in pay she called the district to verify if the pay scale for substitute teachers had decreased, and questioned why teachers weren’t notified.

She said the district confirmed that they had reduced substitute teachers’ salaries and told her that teachers didn’t need to be notified because the raise was temporary.

O’Carroll took the matter up with the school board and superintendent during public comment at the Aug. 24 board meeting.

Sweetwater board President Frank Tarantino said he hadn’t been aware of the issue until O’Carroll addressed the board.

O’Carroll said the district has recently put out a notice on subfinder — an online portal that helps substitute teachers find substitute job openings in the district — about their reduced pay.

Not only is O’Carroll worried about her income, she said she is also concerned with the many highly qualified substitute teachers that will leave the district for a substitute teaching job somewhere else.

The San Diego Unified School District pays its substitute teachers $145.64 for level one substitutes. Level two subs receive $154.20.

“When your sister competitive district raises rates and (Sweetwater) lowers theirs, it’s an obvious fact that we’re going to lose our subs to San Diego Unified,” she said. “They are going to lose people who actually were quite loyal to Sweetwater, but when the (pay) gap is so great, we’re going to walk.”

O’Carroll said she has already submitted a job application with San Diego Unified School District and is in the process of being fingerprinted and scheduling an interview.

“Of course I’m going to follow the money,” she said. “I can give the same quality of education at a different district.”
She maintains that she would stay teaching at the Sweetwater district if the pay remained competitive.

Tarantino acknowledged that the Sweetwater district needs to remain competitive against other districts in paying its substitutes and has asked for a survey of what the neighboring distritcts are paying their subsitutes.

The teachers’ union, Sweetwater Education Association, does not represent substitute teachers; but at San Diego Unified, subs are protected by the union only if they chose to be union members and pay association fees.

“I can tell you that the pay at San Diego Unified for substitutes is higher because they’re represented in the collective bargaining agreement with the teachers,” Tarantino said.

Superintendent Karen Janney said she will ask for the temporary rate to be made permanent.