LEWISTON — An effort to increase the per-diem pay rate for substitutes to help fill those positions was derailed by the School Committee on Monday night.

Teacher vacancies in December ranged from 42% at Montello Elementary to 5% at Connors, with no vacancies at the Lewiston Regional Technical Center, according to information provided to the School Committee.

Educational technician vacancies ranged from 73% at Lewiston High School to 4% at Geiger Elementary.

Committee member Kiernan Majerus-Collins made a motion to increase the rate from $100 per day for teacher substitutes and $90 a day for education technician substitutes to $105 for each.

“We’re talking about people with no job stability, no guaranteed raises, no contract,” Majerus-Collins said. “I don’t think our district should say, ‘Sorry, but we want you to do this crucially important job for what is less than minimum wage in some places.’”

The increase would raise the hourly pay to $15, which would cost about $100,000 a month, member Ron Potvin said.

“I would caution the committee that this should be funneled through the administration and the Finance Committee,” Potvin said. “When we’re getting up into the million-dollar range (annual increase) for noncommittal staff, we have a responsibility to our tenured, long-term staff.”

Majerus-Collins agreed that others deserve pay increases, including staff ed techs, but “right now we’re talking about those making $90 a day before taxes.”

He clarified that he was referring to daily substitutes, not those assigned to specific buildings for the year.

Auburn pays substitute teachers and substitute ed techs $100 a day, he said, noting that subs could be assigned to fill in for either, as needed.

The committee voted 5-3 to refer to the Finance Committee the question of a pay raise for subs. City Council representative Alicia Rea and member Paul Beauparlant joined Majerus-Collins in voting against the motion.

In a presentation to the committee, Human Resources Director Kimberlee Brown said the differential in pay in Lewiston was based on the level of responsibility.

“There is often a greater focus on filling teacher positions than ed tech, so we offer more incentives for subs to take the teacher position,” Brown said.

She said the district has 226 subs in its hiring pool, down 28 from last year. Seventy of the 226 have not taken assignments because of COVID-19 concerns, she said.

She said the district has 11 subs in long-term ed tech positions and seven in long-term teaching jobs.

Allison Lytton, president of the Lewiston Education Association, encouraged the School Committee to continue to look at recruitment and retention and to assess the situation at the end of the school year.

She said a survey of 534 certified union members, including teachers, social workers, nurses and instructional coaches, showed that of the 352 who responded, 44.6% were considering leaving the district. Twenty-seven percent said they were not considering it and 100 members declined to respond.

“Some members are nervous about sharing personal information on the Lewiston Public Schools platform,” Lytton said.

Concerns among those who are considering leaving the district included “unsustainable workload, lack of support, lack of communication, lack of value or being respected,” she said.

Higher pay or compensation in other districts also was a factor, she said.

She said Lewiston ranks 53rd in the state for career earnings potential.

“We value subs, but don’t forget about the people who are with you,” she said.

The committee and the union are in the process of negotiating a three-year contract.

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