BY LOGAN FALKEL
Due to a shortage of substitute teacherson campus, Carmel High teachers have been giving up their preparatory periods to fill in for absent colleagues, the repercussions of which are felt throughout the faculty and student body with no definitive solution in sight.
Over the last few years, teachers report receiving increasingly frequent requests to fill in for another teacher’s class, a situation which puts pressure on their schedules. The cause of this is a shortage of substitute teachers.
“If you have to leave suddenly, it’s hard to get a sub at the last minute,” says French teacher Suzanne Marden. “And in the last few years, it feels like it’s become more of an issue.”
Math teacher Jody Roberts remarks that she receives a request to substitute in another teacher’s class almost once a week. Other teachers report that they receive requests to sub around once a week as well.
According to principal’s secretary Lisa Brazil, there has been a significant increase in substitute shortages in recent months due to sickness and district business, but human resources clerk Fran Garza reports that this is not due to a lack of substitutes employed by the district, but instead a shortage of substitutes willing to work.
“We have close to 150 substitutes [in the system],” says Garza, “but I would say we have around 30 to 40 substitutes that work somewhat regularly.”
Thirty to forty substitutes distributed throughout the district on any given day appears to be insufficient on occasions when 10 to 15 teachers are absent at the high school alone. The district’s high school, middle school and three elementary schools all employ the same substitutes and compete for their assistance. And while substitutes are continually being hired by the district, no long-term solution has been proposed.
“The only solutions there are is to either hire more subs or not allow teachers to do school business, like department meetings, during school hours,” Brazil says.
But no definitive plan is in place, and not only teachers are affected by the substitute shortages: Students also face the consequences arriving to class to find no substitute teacher.
On Nov. 13, students arrived to a first-period history class, but found that because of a new textbook adoption meeting within the history department, the teacher was absent from class. The class waited outside the door for the substitute, but none came. The teacher remarks that no substitute answered his request to sub for the day until fifth period. The class waited until an administrator arrived, at which point students watched a movie.
“A substitute didn’t show up to third period of my English class a couple weeks ago,” junior Tessa Twomey says. “It created a lot of problems because we didn’t get the assigned work done, and it set the whole class back because we weren’t able to take an exam.”
The general consensus on campus is that substitute shortages hold up classwork. Teacher responses to being asked to substitute when the shortages happen are varied, but it is generally agreed upon that there is pressure in being confronted with these requests.
“I work every weekend for probably four to five hours to prepare for the week, then I use my prep period for grading, and that’s time that I don’t get to do my own work if I’m subbing for a different class,” Marden remarks.
According to multiple teachers, decreasing numbers of substitute teachers and subsequently more teacher subbing has been a growing problem for years now. This, taken in conjunction with the rise in student enrollment which have forced teachers to give up preparatory periods to teach an extra class, has created a strain on the staff.
If a teacher’s absence is pre-planned, then substitutes can be properly called in, but it is in more sudden and temporary absences that teachers are required to substitute. While it is an inconvenience, teachers are compensated at $50 an hour for a minimum of 45 minutes’ coverage.
The substitutes employed by the district are vetted through a fairly relaxed process before being admitted into the absence and substitute management system known as AESOP. Garza provides that they’re required to have a background check, college degree and 30-day sub credential. At this point, teachers can send out an all-inclusive request for a substitute through AESOP or make an individual inquiry into the availability of specific substitute.
“It’s the luck of the draw,” Roberts says. “You get whoever can answer the fastest.”
But sometimes no reply comes, and teachers are called in to substitute instead.
As art teacher Steven Russell says, “It’s systematically a big problem.”