District experiences substitute shortage

Teachers sacrifice plan periods to fill positions

Emma Pulaski

More stories from Emma Pulaski

Beyond the Game
December 17, 2018

For students, reporting an absence means calling in and making up work when you get back. The task for teachers, however, can be more of a process. It includes logging onto a program where they record the date, time and reason for their absence, making a lesson plan and for most teachers now, hoping there is a substitute available to fill in for them. With the shortage of substitutes working in the district, taking an absence as a teacher can be a luck of the draw.

Although the shortage of substitute teachers became a rising concern last year, it has been more of an apparent issue starting this year. Director of human resources Jane Nichols believes the low unemployment rate is to blame. Since people already have a job, they no longer take interest in looking to fill the positions as substitutes.

“We do have instances where [individual] jobs go unfilled and then what happens is the principal has to determine the best way to fill that teaching position for that day.” Nichols said.

The solution that administration has put forward is to look inside the building for help. At times, teachers give up their plan period to fill in for a class that needs a substitute. With the help from teachers, it means that administration does not have to rely on the district substitutes. However, teachers have to make the decision on if their planning time is worth being sacrificed.

“I’m learning to say no and to find somebody else if they can first, because it then leaves me without a plan and depending on where I am in the building, not being able to access my room,” Spanish teacher Cheryl Loeffler said. “We do get compensated but then of course we don’t have a plan time and we’re here after school working for longer hours.”

As of right now, there are approximately 110 people employed in the district. Yet the amount of employees who are available to help a certain day does vary, since substitutes sometimes work for other districts as well. The district and administration has put in efforts to advertise the open job positions. Posts have been made on Facebook, advertisements have been put in the Newton Kansan and they have even sent notices to local colleges, looking for graduates that are looking to try to substitute for the semester.

Substitutes are reported to be needed on a daily basis and Loeffler stated that it had got to the point in the past where she would have to fill in for teachers at least once a week. With the efforts being put in, there is hope from teachers and staff that the shortage will be restored soon.

“I believe it causes a problem because we have teachers’ positions not covered when teachers are out, so then our students are not being taught in the manner that they should be.” Nichols said