The difference between a substitute teacher and a "permanent sub" is the difference between a baby sitter and a teacher, permanent substitutes say.
Permanent subs work at the same school for a whole year, filling in wherever needed and teaching a variety of subjects. That familiarity breeds respect, they say.
As regular employees, they’re not considered interlopers who will be gone when a sick teacher returns. Because they’re assigned to the same school for a year, they are treated more like professionals. They "tend to do a better job (than regular subs)," said Autumn Tampa, who has worked for seven years as a sub and the last four years as a permanent sub.
"I go onto campus and I know all the kids there," said Tampa, who works at Hewetson Elementary School on 20th Street near Bonanza Road.
But the value of keeping a familiar face around is most likely about to be sacrificed to next year’s budget deficit, anticipated at $150 million for the Clark County School District.
Although the 2009-10 budget will depend on what happens in the Legislature, permanent subs rank at No. 3 on the district’s list of priorities for cuts, just behind dropping an early retirement benefit and cutting the central office budget by 12 percent.
Finance officials for the district estimate that cutting permanent subs — who, like regular subs do not have the same credentials as teachers — would save about $6 million. That figure is based on the elimination of 200 permanent subs, who are classified as support staff and make between $30,000 to $45,000 annually plus benefits. Regular subs are considered temporary workers.
Human resource officials, however, said the district has only 120 permanent subs, which would put the savings closer to $4 million. When the cost of replacing them with regular subs is factored in, the savings to the district could be about half of that figure.
In any case, principals are not taking the predicted loss of staff lightly.
Ron Montoya, principal of Valley High School, said eliminating permanent subs "will negatively affect student achievement."
Because of job insecurity, he said, employee morale has sunk to a "dog-eat-dog" low.
Cheyenne High School Principal Jeff Geihs said his permanent sub is kept busy because someone is invariably taking a day off. He does not want to go back to the old days of relying on temporary replacements.
"Think back to when you were in school," Geihs said. "If you had a new teacher, you probably weren’t as likely to treat the teacher with as much respect. This is just common-sense stuff."
Bill Garris, the deputy human resources director for the district, doesn’t dispute the value of permanent subs, but said the economic incentive for the program no longer exists since the district now has a surplus of substitute teachers.
Permanent sub positions were created five years ago because inner-city, disadvantaged schools had a problem finding substitute teachers.
"The problem was, and still is, getting teachers out to high-risk schools," Tampa said.
Permanent subs, who start at $17.50 an hour and can make as much as $26 an hour, earn more than regular subs, who make between $12 and $15 an hour depending on where they work.
A bachelor’s degree or 60 hours of university credit is required of substitutes in Nevada. The school district employs a total of 4,152 substitutes.
Regular teachers have contractual protections, so the district cannot simply replace them with substitutes who are hired on a temporary basis. That’s why permanent subs are considered support staff.
While district officials note that more people are looking for work as substitutes because of the hard economic times, Tampa argues that there is still a high turnover rate. People don’t realize how hard the work is.
Permanent subs are also asked to perform other jobs, such as clerical or lunchroom work. Principals are "happy to have an extra pair of hands," Tampa said.
If permanent subs are eliminated from the school district, Tampa said these subs face three options:
They can keep their employment status as support staff but must wait for another support staff job to open. That job might be peeling potatoes in a school kitchen or sweeping hallways as custodial staff.
They can take cuts in pay and benefits and become regular subs again.
Or they can look for work elsewhere.
The elimination of the permanent sub "is a step backwards," Tampa said.
Contact reporter James Haug at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-374-7917.