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Jackson R-2 raises substitute teacher pay

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The Jackson R-2 School Board approved an increase in their rate for substitute teachers, as well as an incentive program to reward substitutes teachers who work several days in a given month.

“We are in the middle of a sub shortage, as is everybody in public education across the United States and in Missouri,” Assistant Superintendent Matt Lacy said. “We would like to incentivize people to substitute for us or at least improve the morale of those who are working really hard for us as substitutes currently.”

The district’s substitution rate was changed from $90 a day to $110 a day. Any substitute who works a cumulative total of 10 days in a month would also receive a $100 bonus.

Lacy said the district was unable to fill six certified teacher substitute requests on Monday, Nov. 8. In addition to the teacher substitute positions not filled, many paraprofessionals throughout the district were also not replaced with substitutes.

“What happens is our teachers give up their prep time to cover a class, which takes a pretty big toll on people,” Lacy said. “When we talk about ‘COVID fatigue,’ one of the biggest stressors right now is the sub shortage.”

The rate change and incentive bonus program were approved to be retroactive, starting on Nov. 1.

The district is also currently switching to a new system called ReadySub to help match teacher’s needs to substitute’s schedules. Substitutes would be able to receive requests through texts, phone calls, emails or the use of a mobile app. Lacy said the new system should be in use in January and also help substitute fill rates.

In other action:

• The board approved an evaluation of the district’s technology program. The district currently employs 10 full-time technology employees who support Internet, network and communication services over the district’s 14 buildings.

The district currently maintains and updates 1,150 desktops, 150 laptops, 1,700 iPads, 6,000 Chromebooks and 100 Internet hotspots across the district, as well as approximately 30 servers. Lacy said the district is currently implementing some cloud-based options when cost effective.

Technology staff also back up district databases, continually evaluate Internet bandwidth, monitor school access and activity through security cameras, respond to service calls and improve student safety through Securely (a computer program) and Internet filters.

The board also heard a presentation on the Digital Underground program, which has student workers from the high school’s supervised business experience class help repair Chromebooks used by students and staff members.

One4One Initiative Administrator Jason Bruns said the work is intensive and allows the students to gain customer service experience and the opportunity to receive an HP certification.

Digital Underground has three locations with shops at the high school, the junior high and the middle school. In addition to the student workers, Bruns has one full-time and one part-time employee overseeing the Chromebook shops and visiting the elementary schools.

Through the program, scrap parts from broken Chromebooks are saved to be used to repair other damaged Chromebooks. “If the screen was broken to the point where we couldn’t use it, we would scrap the top cover which is the keyboard and maybe get the right or left USB out of it,” Bruns said. “It’s like playing with LEGOs.”

Bruns said the program was able to save $61,356 last school year by not having to buy new parts for every damaged Chromebook.

• The board approved the dates and times for candidate filing for two open school board member positions. Filing will be open from Dec. 7 to 28 at the district’s administration office at 614 E. Adams St. in Jackson. Besides the final day of filing, filing will not be open on days school is not in session.

School Board President Brian Thompson and member Paul Stoner’s seats will be open during the upcoming April 5 election. Thompson said he is planning on running for reelection, while Stoner remains undecided.

• The district has replaced all outdoor parking lot lights with new LED fixtures, according to Associate Superintendent Keenan Kinder. Kinder added that the project came in under budget, and the district will now go out to bid the replacement of exterior building lights with new LED fixtures.

• The board approved a request for proposals to add a digital time and attendance system for noncertified employees. “Currently, we are doing a paper and pencil method, and it is cumbersome for employees,” Superintendent Scott Smith said.

Smith said it would increase transparency and alleviate some staff labor. Smith added it should also connect to the district’s payroll system. Bids will be due by Dec. 3 and will be considered by the board during its Dec. 14 meeting.

• Athletic Director John Martin and Kids’ Club Program Director Mandee Hite were added to the district’s list of staff members approved to have district credit cards. Chief Financial Officer Terry Gibson said these people were missed when other program directors and school principals were added to the list earlier this year.

“We’ve gotten great feedback from those who received cards,” Gibson said. “It’s making it a little bit easier to do their jobs.”

• Associate Superintendent Jessica Maxwell said there were 35 students who are currently using the “Mask and Monitor” or “Test to Stay” options for close contacts of COVID-19 positive individuals. Both options require students to wear facemasks to remain in school.

Maxwell added that overall, the district’s COVID-19 numbers “continue to remain pretty low and consistent.”

Jay Forness covers education, county government and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Jackson for the past four years. He can be reached at cbjedit@socket.net.

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