Published Sept. 8, 2022
BY SHAYLA DUTTA
As teacher and classified staff shortages distress California schools, Carmel Unified School District has been raising salaries, increasing benefits and reclassifying job positions to keep its campuses running as smoothly as possible.
“There are shortages around the state in terms of hiring people, not just in education,” says CUSD’s chief human resources officer Craig Chavez, who oversees staffing for the entire district. “Those typically hit harder in areas that have greater requirements to qualify.”
While the district has not experienced a shortage of full-time certificated teachers, finding substitute staff for all positions and some classified staff has proven to be more difficult.
“We’re actually better staffed than, I would say, 98% of the districts in the state of California,” Chavez says. “Where we’re struggling is substitute staff.”
Within the first 16 days of the school year, 8 schoolwide requests had been sent to CHS teachers to cover other classes substitutes weren’t available for. This usually requires teachers to give up prep time they would otherwise have used to grade or construct lesson plans.
The district employs six permanent substitute teachers, four of them full-time and two part-time. So far during the 2022-23 school year, 25 other daily substitutes have worked for CUSD. Chavez says ideally 15 to 20 regular substitutes would be available to cover all sites.
Bus drivers are also in high demand, according to the district’s chief operations officer Dan Paul, yet this is not the sole cause of the cancellation of two major bus routes for the first three days of school, Aug. 8 through Aug. 11. With five drivers out, covering three routes was likely the best possible scenario and may not have even been avoidable with more staff.
According to Chavez, finding and hiring bus drivers also proves difficult for a variety of reasons: New bus drivers require extensive training, and veteran drivers often have seniority in other job positions, allowing them priority to choose their routes and schedule. This can be more enticing than even a larger salary in another position. What’s more, hiring transportation staff requires the approval of California Highway Patrol, which, due to their own staffing shortage, can take weeks to receive.
“It used to take us as little as, I’d say, two months to get a driver start to finish. Like, you’re hired. You’re trained. You’re tested,” says Mason Duvall, CUSD’s transportation foreman. “Now, eight months minimum.”
Currently, substitute bus drivers and licensed bus mechanics are having to drive routes daily to cover approximately 15 routes and 600 square miles, a situation that should be remedied when two new drivers join the transportation staff.
“We have two drivers in training that will help us out, and we’re able to cover all of our routes,” Paul says, “so we’re in a pretty good position right now. I hope it stays that way.”
Regardless, CUSD is looking for ways to become a more competitive employer, as seen in a recommendation to increase substitute pay submitted to the district board Aug. 17.
“We’ve also worked on making sure that any position we post now is actually six hours per day or more,” Chavez explains. “We’ve tried to ensure that a bus driver would have at least six hours out of an eight hour assignment. That’s important because they earn benefits at that range.”
Another pressing issue is the one of “reclassification,” which is ensuring CUSD’s posted job descriptions and salaries accurately reflect the positions they are for.
“We have a number of job descriptions that haven’t been reviewed since they were created,” Chavez says, “and those predate 2000.”
CUSD employs 425 regular staff, and a large number of those are classified staff whose descriptions and salaries will need to be reviewed. The scale of the project requires it to be spread out over a year-and-a-half period.
With these measures being implemented or already in place, CUSD hopes to alleviate the shortage and relieve pressure on other staff. Already, 30 additional classified and certificated personnel have been hired for the 2022-23 year.