FARGO — The Fargo Board of Education temporarily increased the salary of substitute teachers on Tuesday, March 22 for the remainder of the 2021-2022 school year.
The vote was 7 to 2 in favor of the salary increase, with board members Jim Johnson and Brian Nelson opposing it. Board members Nikkie Gullickson, Robin Nelson, Tracie Newman, Jennifer Benson, David Paulson, Seth Holden and Rebecca Knutson voted for the pay increase.
Beginning Wednesday, March 23, the district will begin offering $130 per day to anyone with a provisional replacement license and $150 to anyone with a regular teaching license, with additional premiums for 12 days of work. The incentive will end on May 26, and then the administration will continue to review the matter through the summer months.
Base pay before the motion passed was about $112 a day, not including bonuses.
On average, the district needs 70 substitute teachers a day, and there are currently about 40 long-term substitute teachers on the district payroll, Superintendent Rupak Gandhi said. “We need 30 daily subs on average,” Gandhi said, adding that 34 administrators have also been asked to fill in the gaps over the past few months.
One option mentioned by Gandhi is a possible partnership with Valley State University that could allow students to become substitute teachers next year.
“One thing that won’t go away is the increased pay for in-house contractors. All in-house substitute teachers will be paid $150 and that will remain in perpetuity,” Gandhi said.
“Our team will get there,” Gandhi said.
Prior to the vote, some members of the public challenged the school board during the public comment period to take action.
Victoria Johnson, who once ran for the school board, challenged each board member to give up their monthly salary to help motivate substitute teachers.
“To show us that you care about teachers and that they can get the help they need and get more subs into schools,” Johnson said.
Fargo resident Alexis Scott said she was frustrated and confused by the lack of staff.
“We know it’s not a permanent fix, but we know it’s something we can try,” Scott said of a motion Paulson raised at the last board meeting. administration to raise wages to $200 a day.
“You all came to the table as candidates and said I want to support teachers, I want to support kids, and you’re not doing anything. Either you support better compensation for educators or you don’t,” Scott said.
After several board members were called, Gullickson said Paulson’s previous idea had “a lot of holes drilled”.
“I’m a bit saddened by the headlines because when we have these discussions, just because we don’t address something and don’t approve of it, they think we’re against it. And that creates a public discourse, and that’s hard,” Gullickson said.
Benson said the issue still hasn’t been resolved because the district still needs to find an average of 30 substitute teachers a day.
“I think the point is that the public held us accountable to do something now, and we didn’t even order the superintendent to do it. We rejected a motion. It’s fantastic that the public has held us accountable to do something immediately; prolonging the conversation and doing nothing was unacceptable,” Benson said.
“It needs to be talked about, and the fact that it has reached the level that defines it as a crisis for our students and our teachers and that we’ve been sitting on it for months…I think the public that says it’s is unacceptable and that they are on the right,” Benson said.