Schools face shortage of substitute teachers, forcing districts to add incentives and get creative



STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAW) – Schools in Wisconsin are trying to manage a shortage of substitute teachers as demand increases. The Stevens Point area public school district recently told parents it was experiencing the highest rate of unfilled subs since the district began tracking.

“This is a hard job offer to find, COVID has infuriated it,” said Susan Muenter, executive director of the Association of School Personnel Administrators of Wisconsin.

WASPA helps manage the Wisconsin Education Career Access Network, a place where districts can post their available positions, as short and long-term replacements. Muenter said there are several factors at play to explain the shortage of surrogates in the state.

Various factors contribute

“The supply of education professionals has diminished. As education professionals age, there are fewer and fewer young people choosing to go into education.

The pandemic has made the situation worse. This has prompted more teachers to retire early. Some teachers had to give up the field because they had to be home with their own children last year, or were concerned about the risk of COVID-19. The pandemic has also increased the amount of work, stress and public control already faced by teachers before 2020. When there is a shortage of teachers, it means class sizes are increasing or the school needs a long-term replacement to fill this position. can be rented.

This increases the need for subs. According to data from the Wisconsin Department of Education, there are more than 8,700 people with short-term replacement licenses active in the state, although that doesn’t mean all of them use that license. Many of the people who become substitutes are retired teachers, stay-at-home parents, people who need flexibility, or people interested in education. As Muenter noted, fewer people are interested in becoming teachers and the pandemic has prevented many retirees from opting out, especially when the COVID-19 vaccine was not available.

She said that while the availability of the vaccine has helped bring some of these retired teachers back to substitution, some are still uncomfortable with the risk, especially at the elementary level due to the ineligibility of teachers. students to get vaccinated so far. Others, she noted, may not be comfortable wearing a mask all day or dealing with all the additional health precautions put in place by schools.

However, the data also shows that more people applied for their short-term replacement licenses during the pandemic. Between the start of the 2018-2019 school year and the end of last school year, the number of DPI licenses issued increased steadily, from more than 3,100 to more than 3,500. This testifies to the increase in demand for sub -marines. Again, some are filling vacant teaching posts; others are the typical absences that teachers may have, such as being ill, having a marriage, going on parental leave or taking training. On top of all this, there may be teachers who need to be quarantined.

“So sometimes it happens during the school day, we get notified of a contact or something of that nature,” said Molly Demrow, principal of Jefferson Elementary School at Stevens Point.

She explained that most of those midday quarantine absences are not filled by a sub.

The impact on schools

“If we are not able to fill these sub-positions, we have other employees in the district who need to fill these sub-positions,” said Cory Hirsbrunner. She is Deputy Superintendent of SPASD and Director of Primary Education.

Hirsbrunner said the district has about a 75% fill rate for subscribers, which means they typically have enough subscribers on hold to fill 75% of teacher absences on any given day. It also means that a quarter of teacher absences do not have a replacement to fill, and of all the needs of schools every day, meeting that need is a top priority for schools to function.

“We need to have a teacher in front of each class every day,” urged Muenter.

Schools need to understand this. Hirsbrunner noted that teaching assistants are among the most difficult positions to fill as there are more assistants than teachers. Sometimes administrators, like Demrow sub.

“This makes it very difficult for them to manage the behaviors and needs of the students as well as to run the building when they have to spend a large part of their day or several days, in some cases classes to replace,” said Hirsbrunner.

“We have staff where we may need to completely adjust their schedule for the day or part of the day in order to fill a classroom position,” Demrow explained.

This could mean that the substitute teacher loses his preparation period and / or his lunch break.

“We want to protect the time teachers have in their schedules to plan and prepare because we want to deliver the best education, you know, to all of our students and they need the time to do that.”

“We could double the classrooms. Or if you are a school that can have three sections of a grade level, we might have a teacher who might not be able to be here for some reason or another, then we have the other two teachers who divide this teacher’s class and take on more students in the class, ”Hirsbrunner explained.

All of this has an impact not only on the workload and endurance of the staff, but also on the routine of the students. For some students, school is the only constant thing in their life and it is important to have routines so that students can focus on learning, but having to constantly move or change teachers can be difficult. On top of that, staff and students have more mountains to climb due to the impacts the pandemic has had on schools, such as gaps in education, delays in socio-emotional development, and relearning routines. school by returning fully in person – for some of the younger students, for the very first time.

“That’s probably what caught us the most off guard, was relearning school routines and procedures,” Hirsbrunner noted.

What is done

So, with less prep time in a regular week and more demands on teachers, the director of SPASD told parents in a statement that on Thanksgiving week they are giving teachers and students two days off. online catch-up.

“The focus on staff sustainability until the end of the school year must be a key priority for all of us. While there are many factors in the school environment that we cannot control, we see a growing need to address the morale, culture, and collective mental health needs of our team members.

They also announced that they were increasing the salaries of substitute teachers, stepping up their recruitment efforts and reducing the number of reasons staff would need a replacement due to school activities, such as staff training during school days. class hours.

Substitutes do not necessarily need a teaching license to become a substitute teacher. A short-term substitute must have a four-year degree, which does not need to be in teaching and receive a substitute teaching license from DPI. Short-term contractors usually don’t have to create lesson plans for students. Demrow said people just have to love working with kids and helping them do the rest.

“And you also have lunch when you come, so lunch at school,” Demrow said with a laugh.

To learn more about opportunities at SPASD, click here. To find out how to request a replacement license, click here.

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