A move to formalize a temporary compensation increase for those Peoria Unified employees who fill in for teachers during class has failed.
A temporary initiative was approved by the school board in January due to needs during the pandemic. Staff brought it back to the board July 9 because the initiative sunset at the end of the school year and officials said the need for the compensation still exists.
The practice of filling in is common in schools when it is not possible, feasible or practical to provide a substitute teacher.
The item failed with a split vote — board members David Sandoval and Cory Underhill supported the measure and Rep. Beverly Pingerelli and Rebecca Hill opposed it.
Board member Bill Sorensen was absent.
If a vote ends in a tie, the vote fails.
An approval would have continued the compensation rate of $25 an hour and $37.50/90 minutes for certified staff. It will go back to around $20 an hour for non-certified staff.
Chief Personnel Officer Carter Davidson said the need is great and that from January to the end of the school year, more than 660 staff members provided more than 3,100 hours in classroom coverage.
These are staff members who gave of their time during the school day instead of tending to their own preparation period or brought extra students into their class when another teacher’s class was not covered, he said.
“We have a compensation strategy for situations on campus when we do not have guest teachers and when we are not able to find those individuals to support us,” Davidson said. “This is more of a ‘just in time’ scenario where perhaps a teacher has to leave for some particular reason and a class goes unfilled. So we have a strategy where individuals can serve and support filling that role.”
This item was not brought forward as part of the budget process, but officials said the district does have capacity to cover the recommendation from a budget perspective.
Pingerelli said she was torn on this vote.
“In a lot of positions people are asked to step up and don’t get compensation. I’ll leave it at that,” she said.
Hill said the initiative was a temporary increase based on workloads during the COVID-19 pandemic but is not interested in implementing it further.
“To me it is hardship pay that was specific for COVID-19 and now that we are going back to a normal atmosphere within classrooms, I don’t believe that it is necessary from this point,” she said.
Underhill said this is another critical part of the PUSD workforce and a good incentive for teachers who are going to lose some time already preparing for their own students.
“With all the extra things that go along with that and when you are asked to cover somebody, it is challenging because you do lose any prep that you may have had. I also know the rates for this kind of coverage along with a lot of other rates have not gone up in a long, long time,” she said. “It is necessary to make sure that all of our students are cared for each and every day.”
President Sandoval said it is about valuing PUSD team members and how they go beyond their duties.
“For me, it is what our teachers and staff do on a daily basis and what they do for our society — and more specifically our youth and our young scholars — that is just invaluable,” he said. “This is just another way to value and respect that on a daily basis.”
Philip Haldiman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @philiphaldiman.