Cobb Teachers Receive Raise; No Change to Compensation for Substitutes

Sign t Lindley Middle School in article about MIC education forumLindley Middle School. (photo by Larry Felton Johnson)

The Cobb County Board of Education approved a 1.1 percent raise for teachers Thursday, as well as a one-time 1.1 percent bonus. While news of a raise is welcome, teachers and parents have expressed disappointment at the amount and the fact that the bonuses do not count toward retirement.

Connie Jackson, president of the Cobb County Association of Educators, asked the board to consider raising the millage rate to fund a 2.5 percent raise and provide raises to all employees, including bus drivers and parapros.

“The millage rate hasn’t been raised in ten years…It’s time to do the hard thing, for the school board, and say that we value our education, our schools, and our employees enough to do that raise, 18.9 to 20 [mills],” Jackson said to the board Thursday night.

“We wish we could do more than the 1.1 percent raise,” Superintendent Chris Ragsdale said at the meeting.

Bus drivers, cafeteria workers and parapros aren’t the only employees expressing disappointment. Low pay for substitute teachers and frequently unfilled sub jobs have been hot topics in the Cobb County School District Unofficial Community Page Facebook group.

Substitutes in Cobb County make $80 per day before taxes (long-term sub positions pay more), a low figure relative to the metro area. Daily rates for other metro counties:

DeKalb – $95

Cherokee – $90

Fulton – $100

Clayton – $93

APS – $82.05, $90, or $114.98 depending on education level

Pay isn’t the only source of frustration when it comes to substitute teaching. Parents, teachers and substitutes complain about a sub shortage and open positions frequently going unfilled. Teachers are pulled from their planning periods to cover other classes or have small groups of students dispersed into their classrooms.

Cobb parent Shannon Cloud says it has been a difficult year due to an extended absence by her son’s teacher. Even though it was a pre-planned absence, the school still had difficulty filling the position and her son has spent several days sitting on the floor in other rooms. Though some teachers make an effort to include the extra students in their plans, he still spends part of his day doing worksheets, reading, or drawing. Cloud does not blame her son’s school or the teachers.

“It is a county/state issue and about money,” Cloud said. “It is an unfortunate situation for everyone. The students are not getting the instruction, supervision and routine they deserve. The teacher comes back to find out that their students essentially learned nothing while they were out. It also puts an unfair burden on other teachers to assume responsibility for more students when classes are already maxed out on size.”

A former substitute who asked not to be named had concerns about the policy requiring they work one day minimum per month, formerly once a semester. She doesn’t like to sub during flu season. Additionally, when she tried to notify the county that she would miss a month due to medical issues, she was required to submit lengthy medical documentation or be dropped from the system.

“I have stopped subbing altogether,” she said. “I earn more money babysitting.”

Several applicants complained on Facebook that they have received no response, nor is it possible to check the status of an application Others say they were dropped after missing a month with no warning.

Sheryl Newcomer is a retired language arts and reading teacher who spent most of her 39-year career in Cobb. She subs at Dodgen Middle School where she used to work and enjoys teaching actual lessons in her preferred subject areas. She said the first two years were great, but now, thanks to the number of positions that go unfilled, she feels like a babysitter much of the time. She says she has been pulled from one job to cover another with much more frequency this year. Now when she is considering a job, she deliberates what the chances are of being pulled to do something else.

“If I accept a job, I want to work for that person,” said Newcomer. “So that’s changed, and to me, has been very frustrating.”

She also dislikes that AESOP, the computer system that secures subs, no longer allows teachers to select a specific substitute. Teachers can create a preferred list with five names who are first to be notified of a job posting, but if they are away from their computer and can’t accept it within the timeframe, it goes out to the wider pool.

The county disabled this feature to make sure subs don’t work more than 15 days per month, a violation of which would subject the district to huge fines under the Affordable Care Act.

Deputy Superintendent of HR and Operations John Adams did not respond to an email asking for comment on this issue.