Substitute shortage causes chaos for CHS staff

There is currently a shortage of substitute teachers available at CHS, leaving office staff occasionally in a scramble and sometimes requiring certificated teachers to cover for other classes. The high school has been short substitutes at least 20 days in the 2013-14 school year.

Teachers and office staff alike are not sure why subs don’t seem to be taking jobs, but principal’s secretary Lisa Fosler-Brazil believes there are multiple factors, rather than a single reason.

“For some reason, subs are not taking as many jobs,” Fosler-Brazil says. “It’s actually a convergence of reasons. One is our list is a little thin. Another reason is the district has scheduled a lot more faculty development on school days, and, for some reason, we are seeing subs on our list not picking up jobs.”

Substitute teachers are notified of potential job opportunities through a website called Aesop, an online substitute management service. When nobody signs up to cover a class, or if a substitute takes a job but then has to drop it, Fosler-Brazil emails all staff asking if anyone can cover that class.

Some teachers will offer to cover the class if they have a prep period, but it doesn’t come without sacrifice.

“I don’t like to do it, but I will, mostly to help out the office staff,” English department chair Whitney Grummon says. “I already have so much work to do that it’s definitely not worth the money, and it is a huge hit on my time.”

Teachers that cover classes are paid $24 per period, which is consistent with the $120 per day rate that regular substitute teachers are paid for teaching five periods.

Math teacher Juan Gomez believes asking full-time teachers to cover for absent teachers has negative impacts on both the teachers and students.

“It forces teachers to not be able to grade, create tests, update Aeries, etc., during their prep period as they may have initially planned,” Gomez says. “It forces teachers to do the work that should have happened during their work day after school or at home, cutting into family and personal time.”

Yet some teachers like to sub if they are able to.

“I have subbed maybe five times this year. I do it just to help out,” math teacher Steve Nacht adds. “It depends on the day, whether or not I have tests to grade.”

Many staff members are wondering why substitutes seem so scarce. According to substitute Joe Parsons, however, it may not be because subs don’t want to work at the high school.

“I can only speak for myself on this matter, but I’d rather sub at the high school than at middle or elementary schools,” Parsons says. “I think this is pretty true for most subs because whenever a high school sub job appears on Aesop, it gets snapped up pretty quick.”

Parsons also says that he has recently been subbing often, due to the fact that some teachers put him on their “preferred sub” list as they have gotten to know him better.

According to Fosler-Brazil, district-mandated teacher training days on school days have had the greatest effect on substitute availability. As for a solution, she believes that hiring more subs and changing the ways of the district would help.

“The only solution that we know of is to hire more subs, which we are doing, to train them and make sure they are willing to pick up those last-minute requests,” Fosler-Brazil says, “and to help the district be more aware of the impact the school day training sessions have.”

-Edie Ellison