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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/DAVE PEROZEK Superintendent Marlin Berry addresses the Rogers School Board during its meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020.

ROGERS -- The School District is prepared to pay more to address its shortage of substitute teachers.

The School Board on Tuesday unanimously approved a financial incentive for substitutes. Those who serve as a substitute for a fourth day in a week will receive an additional $30 above the normal daily rate, while those who work a fifth day in a week will receive an extra $50.

Rogers pays substitutes who are fully certified teachers $92 a day; those who are not certified but have college degrees get $86; and those with just high school diplomas make $80.

The new pay structure is effective only through the rest of this school year, Superintendent Marlin Berry said.

"We're finding in this year of pandemic that our pool of substitutes is much smaller" than in years past, Berry said.

That's largely because many substitute teachers are of retirement age and are afraid of contracting covid-19 at a school, according to a resolution presented at Tuesday's meeting. Covid-19 has proven to be more dangerous to those who are older.

"While the district has somewhat restricted the absences by teachers for typical professional development, district policies, along with covid-19 and quarantining, still create the need for substitutes each and every day," the resolution states.

In past years, the district typically has been able to fill 95% of its teacher absences in any given day; so far this fall, that fill rate has been below 90%, Berry said. Fridays are "terrible" for filling absences, he said.

Rogers is by no means alone in its struggle to find substitute teachers this year. Many, if not most, school districts across the state and nation are having the same problem because of the pandemic.

A sign outside the district administration building and a flyer taped to the front door both advertise the district's need for substitutes.

The district outsources its substitute recruitment and placement services to ESS, a company based in Knoxville, Tenn., that specializes in placing people in daily, long-term, and permanent K-12 school district positions.

In other personnel-related news from Tuesday's meeting, the board unanimously approved a bonus of $500 for teachers and other certified staff members and a payment equal to about 1% of salary, up to $500, for all classified staff members.

The one-time payment will be distributed next month.

Berry read a resolution prior to the board's vote on the bonus, which noted the district's 2,100 employees "have worked longer hours, under new pressure and in creative and different ways in order to keep students, staff and families as safe as possible while learning this year."

The bonus is a "small token of thanks" to employees, the resolution states. It will cost the district about $1.1 million, according to Jake Haak, chief financial officer.

"We can work it into the budget quite easily," Berry said.

Rogers' minimum teacher salary this year is $46,750, an increase of $1,000 from last school year.

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Help wanted

Those interested in substitute teaching in the Rogers School District can apply online at ess.com or by calling 1-800-641-0140.

Source: NWA Democrat-Gazette

Dave Perozek can be reached at dperozek@nwadg.com or on Twitter @NWADaveP.

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