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Youngstown schools spent $7 million on substitute teachers over the last five years

Published: Sun, February 24, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

v Instructor attendance in Youngstown is 95 percent, but some fear overreliance on subs will harm students.

By Denise Dick



THE CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT HAS SPENT NEARLY $7 million on substitute teachers the last five years, with more than three more months left in this school year.

The district pays substitutes $70 per day plus costs for the State Teachers Retirement System, Medicare and workers’ compensation which totals $88.72 per day.

At 10 days, the base amount increases to $75 per day and at 60 days, it increases to $162.42 per day plus health benefits.

Through Feb. 8, the district spent more than $669,000 on substitutes this year and $1.7 million for subs last school year. The totals include money from the general fund, federal dollars that carry restrictions on their use and all other funds.

Substitutes are called in when a teacher is absent for any reason, from sickness, personal time or family death or illness to military leave, workshops, professional development training or jury duty.

Through January, the Youngstown district has had 4,374 teacher absences this school year. Chaney Campus (grades 6-12) logged the most with 500 followed by East High with 459.

For the 2011-2012 school year, there were 8,879 teacher absences; P. Ross Berry Middle School logged the most at 1,295.

The totals include preschool teachers and those on special assignment and not working in a classroom.

Superintendent Connie Hathorn was surprised at the amounts spent for substitutes but said some of the high numbers could result from extended illnesses, which would bump up the totals. One teacher with an extended illness would be counted as absent for every school day missed.

The district, which is trying to bolster student achievement under the guidance of the state-appointed Academic Distress Commission, has been requiring several professional- development sessions the last couple of years. Many professional-development hours count as absences.

For sick days, the district has implemented safeguards, Hathorn said.

Karen Green, assistant superintendent of human resources, said the district may require an employee’s physician to complete a form stating the employee is unable to work in cases of prolonged illness. Physician’s notes are also required upon an employee’s return to work after five consecutive sick days.

Though the absence numbers look high, data on the Ohio Department of Education’s website show the city schools are on par with other districts as far as percentage of teacher attendance.

Youngstown had a 95 percent teacher attendance rate for the 2010-2011 school year, the most recent data available. Warren City’s attendance was 94 percent that same year, Austintown’s was 95 percent, Boardman’s 94 percent. Akron logged 100 percent staff attendance in 2010-2011; Canton saw 97 percent; Lorain, 93 percent; Elyria, 95 percent; and Warrensville Heights, 94 percent.

John Charlton, an ODE spokesman, said in an email the percentages include absences that are covered by sick leave, personal leave or other forms of leave. It doesn’t include professional meetings.

Larry Ellis, president of the Youngstown Education Association, the union representing Youngstown’s 540 teachers, said the number of absences due to sick days may be higher in recent years because a significant percentage of teachers are getting older and starting to have more health problems.

Though he’s not always privy to the reasons people take sick time, he said some may be due to job stress.

Charles Howell, dean of the Beeghly College of Education at Youngstown State University, said sick days are typically part of contracts between teachers unions and school districts — so school administrators don’t have much control over them.

“But it’s been recognized as a statewide problem that teacher absences potentially could rise to a level that could impact student learning,” he said.

There are some very effective substitute teachers though, Howell said, and if substitutes are placed in a subject area that meshes with their area of expertise, there likely wouldn’t be a negative impact.

“It depends a lot on the quality of substitute pool and the relationship built over time between the principals and the substitutes and the teachers,” the dean said.

By contract, city school teachers are allowed 15 days of paid sick leave per year. That’s also a requirement by state law.

Teachers also are allowed three personal days per year. Sick days accumulate from one year to the next if they aren’t used.

Teacher absence “has important nonfinancial costs,” according to “Teacher Absence as a Leading Indicator of Student Achievement,” a report released last November by the Center for American Progress. “It negatively affects student achievement, a fact borne out by research that finds that every 10 absences lowers average mathematics achievement equivalent to the difference between having a novice teacher and one with a bit more experience.”

The report points out that multiple studies have “linked teacher absence with job-related stress...”

A 2009-2010 report by the U.S. Department of Education from surveys of 57,000 schools found that 36 percent of teachers across the country were absent more than 10 days during the year.

Studies at both Harvard and Duke universities have concluded that “teachers in bigger schools were absent more often than those in smaller schools. Elementary-school teachers took off more time than did those in high school. Tenured teachers took off 3.7 more days than did those without tenure,” according to an article in the current EducationNext.

Cleveland schools, the article says, which allows teachers 18 days off per year, has budgeted $10.8 million for substitutes this year.


1Irishtiger(51 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

As I read this article, I keep looking for John Kasich's name at the bottom. THIS is something he would spend alot of time on. I know alot of substitute teachers and I can guarantee you it ain't no picnic in the classroom. They are the backbone of the school systems and not the area to be pointed to. I like how our public people can tear apart others while they do a horrible job themselves. I'd suggest one thing for the school systems. If there is a snow day, make it up on that Saturday of that week. I guarantee you we'll have less snow days. Teachers today go thru stress to the max with the punks, bullies and morons they must confront each day. I would place them with police officers, firefighters and letter carriers as the crafts that have some of the highest stress and no backing from their peers. I for ONE back the teachers to the max. The administrators? Not so much. Now, where is that john kasich signature to this article??

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2UNCOMMONSENSE(627 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

That is the problem with sick days. They are easily taken and often for reasons other then true sickness. If everytime I was "stressed" at work I took a sick day, I could probably apply for disability I think 15 days for someone that works 182 days a year is a bit much..

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3janpentz(43 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

OK......sick days are earned at 12 a year and 3 personal days for a total of 15. That's it. If a teacher is taking more, they are not paid. Like other areas of employment, they are allowed to carry over days from year to year. In the last few years an enormous amount of substitutes are used to cover teachers that are at mandatory professional development sessions, curriculum development sessions, and other at work but out of classroom assignments. This school year, according to information distributed at the January Academic Distress Commission meeting, YCSD had a 92% attendance rate. The state average is 93%. That works out to a 1% difference. By just looking at the money spent on sub teachers the Vindy is, again, distorting the reality of this issue. But......how could I expect anything different?

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4harleydog(243 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

I wish I got 12 sick day and 3 personal days off each year with a rollover if I did not use them. Janpentz you are only talking about teachers not the real world. Also, if I had 92 percent attendance record, I would no longer be employed. A sniffle does not constitute a right to call off.

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5patrickhm(27 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

@zippy: and I'm sure if you worked one minute beyond your 8 hour shift, you would be cry babying for time and a half. Teachers work well past the dismissal bell and well before the first bell, buddy, and they do so with aloha in their hearts.

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6redeye1(5678 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

Pat They are not be forced to do so , so that's on them. Most people are forced to work overtime and do get O.T/ pay. But at the same time they don't get two weeks of at christmas or a week off at easter . they also have to work different shifts , sometimes more then one a week. So don't tell me they have a hard life. Once agauin no is forcing them to be teachers, they can find another profession if they want. But then they would just like everyone else and not so priviledged.

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7excel(1311 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

This is news? Give me a break! That's what sick days are for.

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8timmy572(4 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

Those who are complaining about teachers and sick days would not last one week as a teacher esspecially in an inner city school school.

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9Freeatlast(1991 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

Dog that is because you are to stupid to be a teacher

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10Education_Voter(1174 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

Ridiculous headline and lead sentence that have little to do with the facts presented later in the story. Is that the fault of reporter Denise Dick...or the editors?

The State of Ohio's "Academic Distress Committee" has demanded that Youngstown teachers all participate in classes, meetings, lessons planning, etc. These events require the teachers to arrange to have a substitute teacher. No amount of protest by the employees affects decisions by the Academic Distress Committee.

Yet Youngstown teachers have a better attendance rate than some other area schools, and as good an attendance as the statewide average!

What a non-story. News-flash! It's more productive for the teacher to lead the class. No kidding, Vindy.

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11AnotherAverageCitizen(1194 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

So how many people in the private sectorm willingly give back to their employer vacation and sick days? Most private sector people talk about needing to use their time off or lose it. They all take the time off. Public workers use they vacation and sick days just the same as private sectorworkers.

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12kurtw(1829 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

I don't understand why everyone is getting lathered up about this issue- teachers belong to a Union- a very powerful union- just as the workers at Lordstown belong to a very powerful Union. GM faced bankruptcy- only to be saved by the Feds- Youngstown's School District is in "Fiscal Emergency". Enough said.

A Union with the kind of clout enjoyed by the UAW and the OEA can do whatever they want to- and the public (and the students they are supposed to educate)- be damned. I never heard a better argument for the voucher system.

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13kurtw(1829 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

Also, I have a job that takes me up and down Market Street at about the time schools close and, related to the issue of teachers "calling off", I think to my self: If I had to face some of these Thugs and Punks on a daily basis- I might be more than tempted to pick up the phone and say: "Sorry, I've got a head cold and I can't make it in today". They're only human- can't blame them.

(Another factor is that teachers and administrators today have no disciplinary powers over their students. The schools are run by Thugs. If a teachers tries to reprimand one of them- the thug is likely to say "Fxxx You" and there isn't a thing the teacher can do about it, and the thugs know it. You can't run a school that way and expect it to succeed.)

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14TB(1167 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

Dow hit a record today and union membership is at an all time low. Scapegoat much?
How did Akron manage to not have one teacher out suck the entire school year? The numbers don't make sense.

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15TB(1167 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

I know a teacher in Akron schools and asked her if she took a sick day last year. She said a few.

The statistics are off in this article

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