FAIR LAWN, NJ - With qualified teachers becoming more and more difficult to find, the Board of Education approved a bump in substitute teacher pay from $100 per day to $175 per day.

"We're always being told to be more like business," board trustee Eugene Banta said at the Sept. 24 virtual meeting. "We need to be more competitive."

The board approved the measure by a 6-3 vote. 

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Banta supported the increase, with some other board members agreeing, saying it's difficult during "normal" times to get substitutes, especially with surrounding districts offering upwards of $150 per day.

"Substitutes are getting gobbled up," trustee Michael Rosenberg, a teacher, said, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic and how some teachers are opting to teach remotely or not at all for the short term. "We've had a sub problem for a long time, this measure is needed."

Rosenberg said he sees the measure as "temporary," and it should be revisited after COVID-19 becomes less of a factor.

Trustee Cindy Jo Quackenbush agreed. "We're trying to get kids back in school. We need to have a competitive rate especially if we're asking teachers to teach and in the classroom simultaneously."

Board member Wilkin Santana, also a teacher himself, said he felt bumping up pay to $135 per day was more fiscally responsible.

"We have to stop this idea that if you don't give people the moon, they won't come here to teach, and that's not the case," he said. "This district offers more than just pay."

Human Resource Director Lisa Panagia said the district already pays long-term subs $135 per day, and the district has not been "all that successful" getting the subs they need during normal times that have not included a pandemic.