Attendance incentive program for Manatee County teachers reduces need for substitutes

BRADENTON -- A new attendance incentive program for teachers is designed to put the Manatee County School District on track to significantly reduce spending on substitute teachers for the 2015-16 year.

So far this year, the district has spent $417,244 on substitute teachers. For the entire 2014-15 year, the district spent $3.3 million and for the 2013-14 year, the district spent $3.6 million on substitutes.

"We're about half," Superintendent Diana Greene said during a workshop Wednesday. "We're substantially less."

The new incentive program, negotiated through the teacher contracts, pays teachers a higher percentage of unused time off than under previous contracts.

Still, the Manatee County School District had some uncovered classrooms in mid-September. The district was able to fill 91 percent of daily teacher absences with a substitute teacher, beating the national rate according to updates provided Wednesday.

The remaining absences were covered by the schools, often with teachers giving up their planning periods to cover the open classroom. The national rate is being able to fill 85 percent of absences.

"It's not that we have children sitting on their own," said Jormarie Mere-Beaman, a senior recruiter with the school district who presented the board with information Wednesday. "It is being covered, but not being covered through the substitute system."

There are a variety of reasons: Substitutes can dictate what subjects they'd like to cover, what grade levels they'd like to cover and choose the schools where they work. Based on the teacher absences and the substitute availability, it's not always possible to fill the slot.

Sometimes absences can be called in late in the morning or even after the school day has started, which also makes it difficult to find a substitutes, Mere-Beaman said.

Although the district pays substitutes less than what Sarasota County pays, board member John Colon said the district still pays substitutes well when looking at other surrounding counties.

"I just want to be really clear: We don't pay badly," Colon said.

A substitute with an associate's degree makes $69 a day in Manatee County. In Sarasota, that same substitute makes $95 a day. Manatee pays those with associate's degree more than Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

A substitutes with a bachelor's degree or higher makes $89 a day for the first 20 days of an assignment in Manatee County. In Sarasota, that same sub makes $115. Again, Manatee pays those with bachelor's degrees or higher more than Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties in that category.

A substitute with a bachelor's degree or higher makes $100 a day for working 21 to 90 days of an assignment in Manatee County. In Sarasota, that same sub makes $132.

Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter@MeghinDelaney