North Branch substitute teachers receive pay raise

The first day of school in District 138 brought reasons to celebrate to its faculty and staff, with increases in substitute teacher pay and a funded wellness program passing all but unanimously at the evening’s school board meeting.

And despite struggles to fill vacant educational assistant positions at North Branch Area High School last school year, Superintendent Sara Paul reported at the Sept. 8 meeting that all these positions have been filled for the 2022-23 school year.

On the recommendation of Todd Tetzlaff, NBAPS Director of Finance and Human Resources, daily substitute teacher pay will increase to $160 — a $15 increase from last school year and a $30 raise from the rate of two years past.

The incentive program, which awards a retroactive $5-per-day bonus upon completion of the 50th day of substitute teaching in the school year, will also continue. Tetzlaff said this helped last school year, especially in the months of April, May, and June when it is difficult to recruit substitute teachers.

This level of compensation, he added, is comparable to what is being offered in nearby districts.

“We remain competitive doing both of these things tonight,” Tetzlaff told the board.

The pay adjustments passed unopposed with one abstention —Heather Naegele, treasurer of the school board and a substitute teacher herself. Measures such as these are usually given two public readings before being passed. An exception was made in this case to expedite the pay increase, according to Arle Chambers of District 138.

STAFF WELLNESS ADDRESSED

The staff wellness program, introduced by Superintendent Paul, is a new initiative. Paul said several staff members have already volunteered for the committee, which will be funded by a large donation from a house builder with its eyes on developing the area.

LGI Homes, Inc., a Texas-based company that Paul said has plans to create housing for 800 families in District 138, toured the district buildings, learning and meeting staff before donating $3,000 to the schools.

LGI Homes is the company behind the Meadows North development, off of Flink Ave. north of Lampert Lumber and west of Interstate 35.

ODDS AND ENDS

Also on the agenda was the preliminary certification of the 19 proposed tax levies. The board unanimously voted to certify the maximum amount, which would allow for adjustments without further certification.

The proposed levy is due to the county auditor by Sept. 30, which they will use to compute the tax impact for individual taxpayers, according to Tetzlaff. The board also voted to officially certify the levy at the Dec. 8 school board meeting, after notices go out to taxpayers in November.

The school dress code and procedures for contacting families in violation of the school’s proof of immunization policy are on next month’s agenda, and up for approval in November.

Proposed changes to the dress code include removing language prohibiting “short shorts,” skimpy tank tops, tops that expose the midriff, and other clothing that is not in keeping with community standards.”

During the Policy Committee meeting held before the regular meeting, NBAPS school board vice chair Sarah Grovender said this language was too vague and indicated gender bias.

The proposed new language requires only that students wear a top, bottom, and footwear that covers “private parts” with opaque material.

Superintendent Paul advocated changing the language used in letters sent to the families who have not submitted the required proof of vaccination to the district.

The current letter threatens expulsion if the student is not in compliance by a specified date, which Paul said is never enforced.

“I don’t know of another district that expels students for lack of immunization,” Paul said, despite state statute allowing for it.

Paul and Tetzlaff informed the committee that they work with families to make sure students can attend school even while they are awaiting a vaccination appointment, or in the middle of a several-shot regimen.

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