NASD terminates ‘expensive’ substitute contract

Published 12:01 am Friday, April 15, 2016

NATCHEZ — Overspending on substitute teachers led the Natchez-Adams School Board voted to cancel its contract with Subteach USA for the 2016-17 school year.

Through the end of March, the district has spent approximately $355,000 on substitute teachers this year. With six weeks to go, Interim Superintendent Fred T. Butcher anticipated the total being more than $400,000 by the end. The amount budgeted for substitute teachers was $177,000.

“I can’t put all of that on the company,” he said. “I think we have to have people in this district who come to work. I think teaching should be a passion.”

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Butcher said he didn’t think it was fair for the district to be critical of students for not showing up to class when there are teachers in the district missing every week.

“Of course a concern is the financial part of it,” he said. “My real concern is how many instruction hours we are losing because people are not coming to work.

“I don’t care how good a sub is, a sub is not on the same level as a regular teacher.”

For people who are chronically absent, Butcher said the district needed to come up with a system to deal with them.

Board of Trustees member Phillip West suggested that perhaps an incentive could be put in place to encourage people to show up to work.

“There is,” said fellow board member Benny Wright. “It is called a salary.”

Wright said if a teacher is chronically absent, he or she should be fired.

Butcher, who spent more than 20 years as a principal, said he still thinks like one.

“To me, if a teacher is absent every Monday and Friday, we have a problem,” he said. “If there is a pattern of missing days, as a principal, I need to deal with that staff member.”

The board unanimously approved terminating the contract 4-0. Board member Thelma Newsome was absent from the meeting.

Butcher said the district does not currently have a plan for how it will handle substitute teachers in the next school year, but he thought it could be done cheaper in house. The contract’s termination will be effective May 26.

That discussion also tied in with the interim superintendent’s number one priority for the district — recruiting.

Butcher said as of Thursday, 49 faculty openings exist — some of which have been open all year — that need to be filled, and by the end of the school year, he anticipated at least 10 more would be added.

At this point, Butcher said, if they can interest teachers in coming to Natchez, the district ought go out of its way to accommodate that teacher so that its students can get the best educators available.

“It is difficult to deliver instruction when you don’t have a sufficient amount of staff in place,” he said.

Butcher said he had never seen a situation where it was tough to hire physical education and social studies teachers, but that’s been the case in the district.

“Fewer and fewer young people are going to college to be teachers because they want more money,” he said. “Good teachers are very difficult to come by, so we need to make recruiting a priority.”

Butcher, to the second of board member Cynthia Smith, suggested reaching out to Teach for America to get as many as 10 teachers in the district next year.

“We have 10-12 of them in Concordia Parish, and I think they are some good teachers,” said Butcher, who is a school board member in the parish. “They come to us already trained, all we have to do is pay them and keep them happy.”

In other news:

-The board voted to move its meeting time from the second Thursday of every month to the third Tuesday at 4 p.m.