Abington Heights raises wages for substitute support staff

First Posted: 10/21/2014

CLARKS SUMMIT — The Abington Heights School Board approved a pay raise for substitute support staff workers from $7.25 to $9.50 per hour during the district’s regular board meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 15.

According to Assistant Superintendent Dr. Thomas Quinn, support staff workers consist of custodians and maintenance, cafeteria, clerical, instructional and special education aides.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael Mahon believed the raise was necessary to ensure there would not be a drop in the quality of service provided by the district and believes it will save them money in the long term.

“The reality is we just have not been able to get people to come in,” Mahon said. “As a result, we have had increased costs by paying teachers extra to sit and cover shifts. We have had to close a la carte lines in cafeterias because of lack of people being able to work them, which has cost us money. Our hope is that people will look at this as something that will make it worth their while.”

According to Mahon, lack of special education substitutes has been of particular concern.

“Because our list is so small, when there is a vacancy for a special education student who needs an aid, we cannot be without them,” he said. “We have hired substitute teachers to serve as substitute aides to fill a need, which is a cost driver. We believe that raising this rate will allow us to operate more efficiently and save money because of the absence of using substitutes.”

The district reduced its full-time support staff by about 10 percent over the last three years as a way to reduce expenses.

“While we have an adequate number of people remaining, there is very little slack for when an individual is absent,” Mahon said. “We also extended the work week for some of our regular employees to the weekends to cut down on overtime for activities. We’ve hit a critical phase and our hope is the raise will help address it.

“We believe it’s an economic issue. The rate we had been paying really does not make a lot of sense.”

Quinn also recognized a steep decline in applicants for the support staff positions this school year.

“It’s significant this year for the first time,” he said. “There are days when we have a hard time filling all the spots.”

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