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– Friday, March 17, 2017
Page 3
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~The Advocate Asks~
Longtime Substitute Teacher Diane Walsh talks about town
educators who earn less than the state’s minimum wage
For this week’s interview, we
sat down with longtime Substi-
tute Teacher Diane Walsh and
asked her about the challeng-
es of working in a school district
where substitute teachers are
among the state’s lowest paid.
She subs several days a week
at the Veterans Memorial Ele-
mentary School, in Kindergar-
ten through Grade Five. She is a
1978 Saugus High School grad-
uate and received her associ-
ate’s degree from Salem State
University. She aspired to be-
come a schoolteacher, but nev-
er completed her education.
Since 1999 she has been a sub-
stitute teacher with the Saugus
Public Schools, working at all
grade levels.
Walsh has been an advocate
for improving wages and pro-
viding benefits to substitute
teachers whowork in the town’s
education system. Last week,
Walsh addressed the School
Committeeon increasingpay for
substitute teachers. Her daugh-
ter, Leanna Walsh, teaches stu-
dents in the post-graduate Life
Skills Program at Saugus High
School.Walshhas servedon sev-
eral town committees, including
the Saugus Veterans Wall/Mon-
ument Committee and the Vet-
erans School Monument Fun-
draiser. Highlights of the inter-
view follow:
What are you primary con-
cerns as a longtime substitute
teacher working in the town of
Well, I see that role chang-
ing. You have to knowmore. It’s
not ababysitting job. Andmany
years ago, it could be at times.
But today, you definitely have
to be more proactive. You defi-
nitelyhave toknowmoreabout
what’s going on in the schools.
There are somanymore kids’ is-
sues that you have to be aware
of in order to take care of them
the right way. And, if they don’t
pay people, they’re not going
to get anyone that wants to do
anything but babysit them.
What do you get paid a
day now?
How long have you been
getting paid $60 a day?
It hasn’t been that long. I
don’t know how long ago they
raised it – maybe four years,
Howdoes that compute to
the hourly wage?
As a substitute, you make
$9.54anhour. It’s a6.3-hour day.
$9.54 an hour, which is be-
low theminimumwage inMas-
sachusetts,where thestatemin-
imumwage is now$11 anhour.
Yes, it just went up to $11.
What has been your re-
sponse when youmention that
to people?
A lot of us have to work
other jobs. People ask what we
make, and I say not as much as
the [state]minimumwage. Peo-
ple ask, ‘Well, isn’t that illegal?’
So, I looked into it, and some of
the other substitutes said, ‘Well,
yeah. Shouldn’t we make the
minimumwage?’So, I’ve looked
into it.
Haveyoutalkedwith feder-
al wage and hour people?
Yes, I did. First I called the
Massachusettsdepartment, and
they were not very helpful. As
soon as I said I was a substitute
teacher, the lady said, ‘Well, that
doesn’t matter. You’re union,’ or
something like that. I said we’re
not affiliated with any union
whatsoever, and she was very
unhelpful. And then she said,
‘Call the feds.’ So, I went on the
federal site and I called them,
and they didn’t know what to
tellmeatfirst. But theycan’t real-
ly do anything because the fed-
eral minimumwage is $7.25 an
hour. There are only about five
states left that are at that point.
Everybody else is above that.
So, at the state level, where
the minimum wage is higher
than federal minimum wage,
they don’t seem interested in
doing anything about substi-
tute teachers making less than
the state minimumwage?
Theperson I spokewithact-
ed like they couldn’t be both-
ered. I’m sure there are worse
violations out there, so may-
be that was it. The second she
heard the word “teacher,” she
didn’t want to deal with it.
Have you done any re-
search on what other commu-
nitiespay their substitute teach-
Yes. That’s the first thing
I did. A number of years ago
when they changed it, I did the
same type of speech [before
the Saugus School Committee]
and I called all the communities
aroundhere, and therewasonly
one town that paid the same.
And everybody else was far
above, or at least $10 above. So
they [the Saugus School Com-
mittee] made the jump. It was
still low, butweweren’t the low-
est anymore. And now, it’s the
same thing. We’re among the
lowest in the state. Melrose is
right aroundus, andthey’resup-
posed to be such a fancy com-
munity. Some of the other ones
in the area are well above us. I
didn’t call Lynn, but Lynn has
always beenmuch higher. They
have huge federal funding in
their schools.
You have been doing this
since 1999, so the role and re-
sponsibilities of being a substi-
tute have changed a lot since
Yes. It’s been incredible.
Like, you have to worry
about the fanny packs that fol-
low students who have aller-
giesandmedical conditions that
need to be monitored.
Yes. You have to be well
aware of everyone’s IEPs – Indi-
vidualized Education Plans – so
you have to be aware of those.
You have to be aware of behav-
ior modifications. And allergies.
We’re not allowed to bring food
into the classroom. We don’t
even have parties anymore, or
the parties are downsized. The
kids can give out pencils, but
no food. If lollipops come in,
they have togohome.You can’t
haveanything likethat inschool.
Andthereare just somanymore
Since you began, do you
feel like substitute teachers in
Saugus are respected more or
respected less?
It depends upon who you
ask. If yougo intomy school and
ask the teachers about the peo-
ple who substitute in our build-
ing, you’ll findthat there’sahuge
respect, but if you ask outsid-
ers, they are like,‘Uh, they’re just
babysitters.’Lotsof times, teach-
ers come tome. ... I don’t do four
days anymore. I’ve cut down for
financial reasons … and they
ask, ‘Are you going to be in on
this day? I want you inmy class-
room.’ Or for maternity leaves –
I have done a number of mater-
nity leaves…‘I want you onmy
maternity leave.’So, I’mrequest-
ed. They know I know what I’m
ey at a fast-food place than as a
substitute teacher.
Yes. But I was in college to
getmydegreeas a teacher, but I
daughter out. So, no degree for
me. But this is work that I have
What’s the morale like
of the subs you run into at the
Saugus Public Schools?
I only know a couple of
them well. And I only sub in
Veterans Memorial and don’t
get to talk with many of them.
What’s the most chal-
lenging aspect of being a sub-
stitute teacher in Saugus?
I like what I do. I like go-
ing into the different places. I
like just the variety.
But the public has the
perception, ‘This is just a bab-
ysitter’s job.’
Right. So I don’t find a lot
of it challenging. Some days,
like the day before a vacation,
the kids are crazed. The day
after Halloween, the kids are
all sugared-out. Sometimes
dealing with behavior – that
can be challenging. That can
be very challenging. If some-
one’s having a bad day, some-
Longtime Substitute Teacher DianeWalsh outside the Saugus
School Committee room last week after making her latest re-
quest to increase the pay rate for substitute teachers
(Saugus Advocate photo by Mark E. Vogler)