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The North Little Rock School Board on Thursday increased pay rates for its substitute teachers and derailed a plan for the district to offer early retirement incentives.

North Little Rock School District administrators said it needed to raise daily pay rates for substitute teachers to compete with other districts that may offer higher rates. The North Little Rock district also wanted to offer a $500 incentive for teachers to notify it earlier -- by Feb. 1 rather than at the end of June -- of plans to retire so the district would have more time to recruit high-quality instructors.

The seven-member board -- without members Tracy Steele and Darrell Montgomery -- handily passed the pay proposal but was divided in a 3-2 vote against the early-retirement incentive.

"Especially in this area, we've got one substitute provider, and they've got one pool of subs," district Superintendent Kelly Rodgers said. "So, if someone gets a position at another district and they're paying a little higher, they will drop ours and take theirs. So it's become really competitive between the districts."

Last week, one of the district's campuses had 11 vacancies, said Karli Saracini, the district's executive director of human resources. Classrooms can't go unfilled, which leaves aides, campus security officers and others as replacements, Rodgers said.

The district will now pay $75 a day for nondegree substitute teachers, $85 for those with degrees, $95 for those who are certified and $120 for long-term substitutes, or those who work with the district for more than 30 days. Pay for each category will be more than those of the Little Rock and Pulaski County Special districts, both of which use the same provider, WillSub.

The North Little Rock district even competes for substitute teachers with districts farther out, such as Conway and Cabot, which use another provider, Saracini said. But many substitutes will sign up with the three major providers in the area and shop around, she said.

Thursday's vote on the early-retirement incentive turned into a broader discussion about the district's salary schedule for new teachers.

"I want North Little Rock to be the best district in the world," board member Dorothy Williams said. "I want us to have the finest teachers, but the only way you get good teachers is with money."

She'd also rather use the incentive funds in other places, she said.

The district on average has about 60 teachers who could take the incentive, meaning it would spend about $30,000, said Brian Brown, the district's director of purchasing and finance. The district would likely spend at least $1 million for every $1,000 added to its salary base without restructuring the salary schedule, he said.

If the district added the $30,000 to the salary base instead, board member Luke King said it would make "zero difference."

There were really two discussions: one about being proactive, which the incentive was trying to do, and another about starting pay, said King, who, along with board president Sandi Campbell voted in favor of the incentive.

Rodgers, the superintendent, said the district would meet with licensed personnel, regroup and "see what we can do."

Metro on 12/15/2017

Print Headline: Board increases substitutes' pay in NLR schools

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