Schools working to overcome substitute teacher shortage

Mrs. Shahady is substituting at Mark Twain Elementary in Maimisburg. School districts across the Miami Valley, including Miamisburg schools, have been working to dal with the challenge of recruiting  and retaining substitute teachers. JIM NOELKER/STAFF
Caption
Mrs. Shahady is substituting at Mark Twain Elementary in Maimisburg. School districts across the Miami Valley, including Miamisburg schools, have been working to dal with the challenge of recruiting and retaining substitute teachers. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Now that schools have welcomed students back to classrooms, they face a familiar challenge: a shortage of substitute teachers that, for some areas, shows few signs of improvement.

The shortage is due to the coronavirus combined with a continuing problem of fewer people signing up each year to work as substitutes, educators say.

Miamisburg School District is one in a string of area school districts to raise pay for substitute teachers. In July, it boosted its per diem — or daily allowance — rate of pay from $85 to $105 in July, the first such increase since 1999, when per diem went from $72 to $85 per day, officials.

Miamisburg Superintendent Laura Blessing told this news outlet Friday that the district is at 111 guest teachers for the 2021-2022 school year, four fewer than last year thus far.

Mrs. Shahady is substituting at Mark Twain Elementary in Maimisburg. School districts across the Miami Valley, including Miamisburg schools, have been working to dal with the challenge of recruiting  and retaining substitute teachers. JIM NOELKER/STAFF
Caption
Mrs. Shahady is substituting at Mark Twain Elementary in Maimisburg. School districts across the Miami Valley, including Miamisburg schools, have been working to dal with the challenge of recruiting and retaining substitute teachers. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Credit: JIM NOELKER

The school district is still adding to the pool, Blessing said.

“We do feel the pay increase has helped due to the fact that the subs we do have will select our positions over other districts since we are now close in pay,” she said. “In years past, our subs would select Springboro and Centerville over our positions due to the pay.”

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Of the 16 Montgomery County public school districts serviced by the Montgomery County Educational Service Center, which includes Miamisburg, substitutes are paid anywhere from $75 to $125, Montgomery County ESC.

“All of our county school district are navigating through the challenge,” said Guy Fogle, the ESC spokesman.

Montgomery County ESC is seeking ways to conduct mass substitute hirings and collaborative sharing of those staff with districts across the county, according to Shannon Cox, the ESC’s superintendent.

She said she recently worked with State Rep. Andrea White, R-Kettering, and they managed to get a provision back into Senate Bill 1, allowing schools to use non-certified substitute teachers this school year to help deal with shortages.

The measure passed the House in late September and, on Oct. 6, the Senate concurred with the House amendments. The provision has an emergency clause, so as soon as Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signs the bill, schools will be able to use non-certified subs again, Cox said.

The measure was already in place last school year as part of COVID adjustments, but that provision “sun-setted” on June 30, she said.

It permits a public or chartered nonpublic school, for the 2021-2022 school year, to employ a substitute teacher according to the school’s own education requirements, “provided the individual also is deemed to be of good moral character and successfully completes a criminal records check.”

Cox said there’s still the longer-term issue of not having enough certified, degreed subs. She said many existing subs are tired and stressed from serving through various COVID protocols, some in multiple districts with different rules and many people have been sick, both with COVID as well as other respiratory illnesses.

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David Larson, superintendent for Miami County Educational Service Center, said county schools are “definitely seeing a shortage” of substitute teacher, one that preceded the pandemic, he said.

“We were already looking at many districts, and definitely us as an ESC, we’ve been dealing with this for a number of years,” Larson said. “There are several factors going into that. There are fewer people going into teacher education programs, so that was one pool that you would have for potential subs would be people who graduated with a teaching license and didn’t get a position or chose to not take a full-time job but wanted to sub. So we have fewer of those folks.”

Six Miami County school districts partner with Miami County ESC to bring subs on board and the ESC partners with the districts on an online substitute management system. Larson said.

Substitute pay in Miami County ranges from $95 a day to $120 a day, Larson said. Five years ago, it was around $85 a day on the low end and $105 on the high end.

So, are pay increases for substitute teachers in the past two year bringing more into the pool of potential substitutes?

“We haven’t seen it yet,” Larson said.

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But changes in State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio mean more teachers working longer and fewer retiring in their early to mid 50s, diminishing yet another pool of potential substitutes, Larson said.

The pandemic “certainly hasn’t helped things,” he said.

“Obviously, absences are up because we have people who are in isolation or quarantined,” Larson said. “Absences that may have been two or three days may now be maybe 10 or 14 days.”

In addition, school districts and ESCs are competing with “a lot of other businesses and industries that are looking for employees right now,” he said.

“Everybody is trying to get staffed, and we’re in that same group trying to compete from employees,” Larson said.

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