TIPP CITY — The Tipp City Board of Education (BOE) discussed multiple important topics, that had been tabled during a previous meeting, including, increasing substitute rates in the district, a related arts department coordinator and the lack of a district zero-tolerance policy.
During the Tipp City BOE work session on Monday, Feb. 13, the board heard from Dr. Lisa Tuttle-Huff regarding potentially increasing substitute rates in the Tipp City Schools District. Tuttle-Huff presented the board with a comparison of Tipp City’s rates and the rates of surrounding school districts like Vandalia Butler, Piqua and Troy. According to Tuttle-Huff, Tipp City, like many other school districts in the nation and in Ohio, is struggling to find substitute teachers.
The current substitute pay rate in Tipp City is $105 per day, Tuttle-Huff believes that raising it even $5 would help the district attract more substitute teachers.
Currently, the district has a list of approximately 60 substitute teachers. However, not all of those substitutes are able to work on any given day. Tuttle-Huff approximated the district can accommodate about 20 teacher absences in one day between the five buildings within the district. Substitute teachers are called in for various reasons, such as teachers using personal or sick days, class field trips or professional development days.
“I think we’re doing better than most districts, but we could be doing better,” said Tuttle-Huff.
During her research of surrounding district’s substitute rates, Tuttle-Huff discovered many substitutes choose to travel slightly further, to other school districts, because their rates are anywhere from $5-$15 more than Tipp City’s. She also discovered finding long-term substitutes is difficult because they would prefer to work for a higher rate.
To look further into increasing rates, Board member Theresa Dunaway had requested Treasurer Melanie Fox compile the number of substitute hours worked during the 2021-22 school year and calculate the cost of those hours at the new rate.
The board approved an increase in substitute rates from $105 to $110 for elementary school substitutes and an increase from $105 to $120 for Tippecanoe Middle and Tippecanoe High School substitutes. The board approved these increases with the understanding that if the increased rates draw more substitutes to the middle and high schools than the elementary, that the board might have to reconsider the rates for elementary school substitutes.
The BOE then moved on to discuss the position of a related arts department coordinator in Tippecanoe Middle School. It recently came to the attention of administration that the Tippecanoe Middle School related arts department had no coordinator to represent the department at school-wide meetings. The related arts department includes what the board refers to as “specials,” classed like art, band, choir and physical education.
Without a specific department coordinator, various staff members within the department have been stepping up to represent their department and taking the place of a coordinator, but without the additional stipend typically assigned to a department coordinator.
Anne Zakkour raised a concern of tightening the budget for the district. She is concerned the district is not ready or willing to tighten their budget and deal with the hardships that come along with a tighter budget.
Tuttle-Huff proceeded to point out continuing as the department has been, with teachers stepping into a role and not being compensated for it, would not be fair to those who are taking on extra work. Without the board’s approval of a stipend for this department coordinator, Tuttle-Huff anticipates the teachers who have been taking on extra work will stop and the related arts department will no longer have representation at school-wide meetings.
The board decided to approve a stipend of $1,200 for a Tippecanoe Middle School related arts department coordinator.
Also on the board’s agenda for the work session was a discussion on the district’s zero-tolerance policy, or lack thereof.
Dunaway introduced this item because the board and administration often refer to a “zero-tolerance policy,” but through her own research, she was unable to find such a policy. According to Superintendent Mark Stefanik, there is not a standalone policy in the district for zero-tolerance, but it is a phrase found in multiple different policies.
Dunaway would prefer that a zero-tolerance policy be created or that the district stop telling parents that one exists.
Stefanik mentioned that most people have different understandings of what a zero-tolerance policy is and Zakkour noted that a zero-tolerance policy is vague and broad, what is the district having no tolerance for? No details were given during the meeting to describe what the zero-tolerance policy is about or who it addresses.
No action was taken regarding a zero-tolerance policy, but it was suggested that Stefanik begin working with administration and school counselors to better understand how a zero-tolerance policy would work for the district and outline a potential policy.
In other business:
• The board discussed ceasing live streams of work sessions on the suggestion of member Amber Drum. It was determined the benefits of accessibility and transparency outweigh the idea of members that the board works better without a camera.
• Dunaway brought up the topic of a running list of board discussion topics board members find interesting or may wish to talk about can be added to board agendas, provided there is room. There was a consensus that a running list would be beneficial to all members and prevent discussion topics from being lost or forgotten.