GFPS board approves substitute incentive, labor agreements
The Great Falls Public Schools board approved two labor agreements and substitute pay during a recent meeting.
The school board unanimously approved a two year collective bargaining agreement with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local Union 2 during their Aug. 21 meeting.
Human Resources Director Luke Diekhans said that the agreement applies to six warehouse employees and runs from July 2023 through June 2025.
For the current school year, the agreement includes a 4 percent wage increase, and additional 4 percent increase for the following school year.
The new agreement also modified the longevity schedule.
For the 2023-24 school year, the approximate salary budget for this group will be $258.711, an estimated increase of $23,379 over the previous year.
For the 2024-25 school year, the approximate salary budget for this group will be $268,923, an estimated increase of $10,213 over the previous year.
Board members also unanimously approved a three year collective bargaining agreement with Local Union 400 of the International Union of Operating Engineers, AFL-CIO, with retroactive pay for the 2022-2023 school year.
Diekhans told the school board that the labor agreement had expired June 30, 2021 and the district bargaining with the group through September 2022, at which point the school board approved an agreement in October 2022.
In January 2023, the district began negotiating with the union for a new contract including the 2023-2023 school year, Diekhans told the board.
There are 93 employees in this bargaining group, according to GFPS.
The agreement includes:
- a 2.7 percent wage increase for the 2022-2023 school year for a total salary budget of $3,645,779, an increase of $95,848 over the previous year;
- a 3 percent increase for the 2023-2024 school year for a total salary budget of $3,775,152, an increase of $109,374 over the previous year; and
- a 2.5 percent increase for the 2024-2025 school year, for an approximate total salary budget of $3,849,031, an increase of $93,879 over the previous year.
The board also approved substitute teacher pay for the current school year.
The previous compensation was $90 per day for those who don’t hold a current Montana teacher license and $100 per day for those with a current state teaching license.
After 40 days of work, a non-certified substitute would receive $100 per day and certified substitute would receive $115 per day until the end of the school year.
Substitutes work seven hours per day and can’t work more than 130 hours per month, Diekhans told the board, for insurance reasons.
Full-time and long-term substitute teachers are excepted from that rule.
Substitute teachers are trained throughout the year on topics ranging from technology, classroom management, and Indian Education for All, among others.
Diekhans said fill rates are increasing since COVID for teacher absences, in the past school year it still averaged
84 percent, meaning 16 percent of teacher absences were filled in building by other staff, due to a lack of substitute teachers.
For the current school year, Diekhans told the board they assumed teacher absences will continue at a similar rate.
The board approved the following substitute teacher rates for the current school year:
- unlicensed, first 40 days: $100
- unlicensed, after 40 days: $110
- licensed, first 40 days: $110
- licensed, after 40 days: $120
Substitute teacher pay had not increased since August 2020, according to GFPS.
The pay increase will cost the district an estimated additional $43,650 this year, according to GFPS.
Marlee Sunchild, school board member, said she had concerned with the daily rate paid to substitute teachers for training.
“I was embarrassed,” she said of the low rate. She said it was $9.95, but Diekhans said the rate hadn’t been that low in his time with the district, and said he’d look into the letter Sunchild said her daughter received.
She also said she had concerns that the training for substitutes was outdated.
“We’re not setting those subs up for success,” she said.
Diekhans said the district relies on those finishing teacher training, moving into the district, or those not in full teacher positions to serve as substitutes.
He said the pay increase likely wouldn’t solve the lack of substitutes, but would help.
Board members also unanimously approved incentive pay for substitute teachers.
“Substitute teachers are an important component of student learning as they provide instruction to students in the
absence of the teacher. Teacher absences have increased over the last two years and substitutes working daily
has decreased as well. With the current nature of the employment market, we do not anticipate this problem
diminishing during the 2023-2024 school year,” according to GFPS.
Last year, the board approved substitute incentives for those who worked at least 25 days during certain timeframes.
Diekhans said that was an effective strategy the district would use again this year.
The district is using some of its one-time COVID relief funds that expire in June 2024 to fund the incentive.
All substitutes who work a minimum of 25 days during the two-month timeframes listed below, will receive an additional $400.
Those timeframes are:
- Sept. 1-Oct. 31
- Nov. 1-Dec. 1
- Jan. 1-Feb. 28
- March 1-April 30
All substitutes who work a minimum of 18 days from May 1-June 2 will receive an additional $400.
Based on last year’s numbers, the district anticipates spending $36,000 on the incentives this school year.