UNION — The Regional School Unit 40 Board of Directors approved an increase in pay for substitutes.

The pay increase was approved at the board’s Thursday, Dec. 2 meeting, held at the central office in Union.

A draft letter in the board packet stated pay for substitute teachers and educational technicians would now be based on experience.

During the meeting, Superintendent Steve Nolan clarified the new pay applies to substitutes for all positions, not just teachers and educational technicians.

Nolan said he had planned to propose the change in pay as part of the budget proposal, but the district continues to have approximately 20 vacancies and a shortage of subs. Nolan said it made sense to consider this as an option now.

The new pay scale works within the current school budget, Nolan said.

Nolan explained instead of a flat fee, this new pay scale takes into consideration the position the substitute is filling, their related experience and completed college courses.

As an example, Nolan said substitute bus drivers currently were paid at the lowest pay rate on the bus driver scale. The new pay scale takes their experience as bus drivers into consideration and allows the district to pay them more appropriately.

Nolan said this may attract individuals who are retired and have extensive experience.

The sample letter in the board packet listed the pay range starting at $90 to $118 per day for substitutes with a high school diploma. The highest pay rate is $252 to $429 per day for substitutes with a master’s degree and 30 years of experience.

Nolan said this would be a more involved process, including an interview to determine the appropriate pay rate.

The change also reimburses substitutes for the fee involved in background checks if they work for the district for 30 days.

The previous pay was $90 per day for teacher substitutes, which increases to $100 per day with adequate college credits, and $120 per day for long-term substitutes. Long-term substitutes who were fully certified in the subject they were teaching were placed on the teacher salary scale.

Vaccine discussion

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Natasha Wallace read what she described as a collaborative letter penned by a group of 20 to 23 parents.

Wallace said the letter was to address the upcoming proposal for staff to be vaccinated, which the parents assume eventually includes the district students.

The only discussion of a vaccine mandate at board meetings has been OSHA’s Emergency Testing Standards. These standards would affect all businesses if implemented.

In an email to The Courier-Gazette, Nolan said there is no vaccine mandate being considered, but the district will prepare to implement the requirements and will adapt accordingly when new information becomes available.

The letter Wallace read stated parents were concerned about a vaccine mandate leading to a lack of staff in the district.

Wallace further said the district had been spreading misinformation about the vaccine. Children in the schools are being told their life can “return to normal” if they get the vaccine, and that is not true, she said.

The letter also stated concerns about the vaccine clinics being held at schools. Concerns included the vaccine being given by providers who are not familiar with the medical background of the students, and noncustodial parents giving consent for the shot.

The letter also mentioned a case of accidental vaccination that had occurred.

The letter was signed “moms and dads against the vaccine mandate.”

In his email, Nolan confirmed that a student at Miller School did mistakenly receive a dose of the vaccine.

“We immediately took steps to determine how and why this happened, and we have worked closely with our partners at LincolnHealth to review our procedures and add additional steps to our process to ensure that we are doing everything in our power to make sure this does not happen again,” Nolan said.

Assistant Superintendent Christina Wotton also spoke during the public comment portion, and said she disagreed with a vaccine mandate.

Wotton said she was very concerned about the staff, as the district was already operating at a shortage.

The next school board meeting is Thursday, Dec. 16 at 7 p.m. at the central office in Union.