School district’s decision to increase pay brings in needed subs

Posted 10/15/20

Boosting pay for Powell’s substitute teachers seems to have helped address a substitute shortage that hit the district at the start of the school year.

Superintendent Jay Curtis told the …

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School district’s decision to increase pay brings in needed subs


Boosting pay for Powell’s substitute teachers seems to have helped address a substitute shortage that hit the district at the start of the school year.

Superintendent Jay Curtis told the Park County School District No. 1 Board of Trustees last month that the situation was “a borderline crisis,” reaching the point that principals had to sub in classrooms for a day.

The problem extended to substitute paraeducators, cooks, bus drivers, custodians and other positions, Curtis said.

“Literally every position that we have, we’re having trouble filling with subs,” he said.

During the first month of school last year, the school district had five unfilled vacancies, when a substitute teacher could not be found. The first month of this year, that number skyrocketed to 30; one principal had a vacancy go unfilled after the system called 26 people, and no one picked up the job.

As for why interest in substituting has slumped, the superintendent guessed that “the pay is not worth it” and perhaps “people don’t want to come in during the pandemic.”

To address the issue of pay, Curtis proposed increasing a substitute teacher’s wage from $13.75 per hour to $17 per hour.

“It has been a long, long time since we’ve addressed substitute pay in this district,” he said.

The board unanimously approved the raise during its Sept. 22 meeting. Based on a full eight-hour school day, substitute teachers’ pay increased from $110 per day to $136 per day.

At Tuesday’s school board meeting, Curtis said the change in the pay scale for substitutes had changed the situation from crisis to calm. He noted one day there were 31 substitutes needed and the district was able to fill those slots with little trouble.

Since the pay increase was put into place, Curtis said, there has been a “noticeable uptick in the number of people who have applied to substitute.”

Special education paraeducators were not covered in last month’s pay hike. This was remedied Tuesday with those subs getting an additional dollar an hour, bumping them from $12.10 to $13.10.

Board member Kimberly Condie asked for clarification prior to voting, seeking assurance that the wage schedule for all other substitutes would remain as set previously and the $1 an hour was applicable only to special education substitute paraeducators. Curtis verified that was the case. The matter was unanimously passed.

Curtis mentioned that the pay scale the district offers to subs is in line with what other districts around the state are offering, making it easier for Powell residents to accept jobs in this district rather than traveling to schools further away for better pay.

“They sub at Lovell, they sub at Cody, they sub here, they’ll even drive down to Burlington and Greybull sometimes,” Curtis said last month. “And we want our subs to say yes to jobs in Powell.”

After asking districts around Wyoming how much they pay substitute teachers, Curtis said the pay varies widely in the state from $96 per day to $200 per day for a short-term sub.

“Many superintendents are also reporting sub shortages,” he added.

Overall, he said the increase will be “a pretty small cost for the district for the year.”

The bump in pay for substitute teachers is expected to cost the district around $20,000 per year, he said.

In another move to address the substitute shortage, the board modified the district’s policy last month so that student teachers who sub can receive payment. Curtis said Park 1 is the first district he has worked in that didn’t allow student teachers to be paid for subbing.

“What I’m asking is that we add a provision in here that says when we’ve exhausted all of our options, that we can utilize a student teacher and pay them as a substitute,” Curtis explained.

While colleges handle the issue differently, Curtis said that usually, if a student teacher receives payment for subbing, they cannot count that day toward their student teaching hours.

“They are essentially extending their student teaching by one day, and there’s usually plenty of flexibility to do that, as long as they don’t become regular subs,” Curtis said.

He called subbing “a great training ground” for student teachers.

The district doesn’t want to take substitute jobs away from the regular sub pool and give those to student teachers, Curtis said, but just wants to ensure vacancies are filled.

“Morale in the district is actually really good, all things considered,” he said, as teachers are working hard under new circumstances and “achieving some sense of normalcy.”

While educators who are sick cannot work, other teachers could be denied personal leave if substitutes aren’t available. If the district has to deny personal leave, “the morale of our teachers will suffer tremendously.”

Substitute teaching in Wyoming requires a permit, which is valid for five years. For more information or to apply for a permit, visit

In other business on Tuesday, the board accepted donations to the schools and extended its thanks to the donors.

Eric Leluika donated $1,000 to the Powell High School Art Guild and the Bank of Powell donated $200 to each of the three elementary schools as well as sending supplies for the classroom teachers.

The district will next meet at 6 p.m. Oct. 27 at the district offices on North Evarts Street.