With Ames schools offering incentives to fill open positions, how do other local districts compare?

Phillip Sitter
Ames Tribune

While Ames schools are in need of some kinds of staff, school districts' staffing needs — and staff's pay — vary across the surrounding area.

The school board in Ames last month approved pay incentives to try to attract needed custodians and educational assistants — both hourly staff positions.

As of Monday, according to the district's job postings, in addition to on-call and full-time custodial staff, the district was looking for a variety of educational assistants, or EAs:

  • Special education EAs at Ames High School and district-wide at the elementary and secondary levels; at each of the district's five elementary schools — with Meeker, in particular, being designated as a high-needs school — and substitute special education EAs district-wide for the current school year.
  • General education EAs at the high school, district-wide at the elementary level and at Fellows Elementary School.

Kristin Johnson, the district's director of human resources, previously explained that educational assistants support students and teachers before, during and after school. Special education EAs serve students with IEPs, and general education EAs supervise lunch periods, study halls and during recess. Some also serve as crossing guards or accompany students on their bus rides to and from school.

Depending on the position, pay can range from $11.60 to $13.60 an hour.

More:Ames schools offering incentives to address staffing shortages among custodial staff, teachers' assistants

On-call custodians in Ames who work 20 hours a week or less are paid $13.39 an hour, according to the district's openings, and full-time custodial positions are paid $13.82 an hour or more, depending on the position and the shift.

Johnson said last week that there were no other staffing shortages among other kinds of hourly positions.

She did say, "Like many other school districts in Iowa and around the country, Ames (Community School District) does experience difficulty filling positions with substitute teachers, particularly on certain days of the week, like Monday and Friday."

Johnson said there was not enough data to compare Ames schools to others in the current school year, but said the district has struggled with more unfilled substitute positions this year than last. She said the comparison is difficult to make because of the different learning models schools were in last year, with more opportunities last year for teachers to work remotely if they were in isolation or quarantine due to COVID-19 exposure.

But, Johnson added, "Compared with two years ago, there were a slightly higher number of unfilled substitute opportunities this year during August and September."

As of Monday, the district was also looking for substitutes district-wide, either permanent or just for the current school year.

Johnson said the district offered a $100 reimbursement last year for the costs of obtaining authorization to be a substitute for someone without a teaching license if they accepted 10 substitute teaching opportunities, as well as covering the remaining cost if someone accepted another 10 opportunities.

She said there are no current pay incentives to encourage individuals to become substitute teachers, and that the current daily regular rate for a substitute is $127. Long-term substitute teachers who work in the same assignment for 10 days or more earn $175 a day.

The starting base rate for a teacher in Ames is $32,960 a year, Johnson said.

She added that the district "was unable to fill a small number of teaching positions for this year, but overall in Iowa, Ames has a lower number of unfilled teaching positions."

More:COVID pandemic has most affected special education students, a review of 26 Iowa districts' spending plans shows

As of Monday, the district had several open teaching positions, including for a high school teacher for talented and gifted students, a high school English as a second language teacher, an eighth-grade math teacher, a middle school behavior special education teacher and a temporary early childhood special education teacher.

How do open positions and wages compare between Ames and other area districts?

In Gilbert, district business official Gail Hopkins said last week that most of the district's positions were filled, and though substitutes "are always in need," there had not been changes to their pay or other incentives provided to solicit more help from the community.

Hopkins said the starting salary for teachers in the district is $42,465.

A substitute teacher in Gilbert can make $120 a day, while longer-term substitutes can earn a per diem of the base pay on the low-end of teachers' salary schedule, according to information provided by Hopkins.

Day-cleaner custodians start at $13 an hour, while night-cleaners start at $13.25. The highest-paid custodian — head during the day at the middle school and high school — makes between $16 and $18 an hour.

More:Gilbert's school board votes to encourage — but not require — masks to be worn at school

Hourly associate positions, including in special education and in regular classrooms, earn $13 an hour.

In the Roland-Story district, Superintendent Matt Patton said last week that there were no unfilled positions open, and therefore there was no need to offer incentives.

Patton said hourly pay in Roland-Story starts at $11.50 an hour, but because hourly employees are paid based on their education level and experience, the average hourly pay was $14 an hour.

In Nevada, Superintendent Steve Gray said last week that hourly positions were fully staffed and that pay incentives had not been discussed.

Gray did add that the district has seen a shortage of substitute teachers for several years. The district raised its daily rate from $105 to $120 a couple of years ago for that reason, he said.

He said teachers in the district in their first year right out of college earn $42,801.

Gray also shared that custodians in Nevada start at $14.50 an hour. Paraeducators — described in a job opening listed Monday as support staff and a special education assistant — start at $12 an hour but earn more each year and can make $15.86 after three years.

The Ames Tribune did not receive information from Ballard.

Phillip Sitter covers education for the Ames Tribune, including Iowa State University and PreK-12 schools in Ames and elsewhere in Story County. Phillip can be reached via email at psitter@gannett.com. He is on Twitter @pslifeisabeauty.