Having a shortage of substitute teachers isn’t a good thing, but Sun Prairie Area School District isn’t alone in this.
That’s the district’s human resources director Annette Mikula’s take on the shortage.
“Years ago, it was easier to find subs, because if someone didn’t find a job (out of college), then they’d sub to get a foot in the door,” Mikula said. “In today’s economy, many people don’t have that luxury.”
In the last year, the district posted 14,458 substitute teacher openings. In 426 of those situations, no one was available to step in.
“Right now, we’re actively trying to recruit subs,” Mikula said.
In addition to the district reaching out to retired teachers more, it has been reviewing other districts’ solutions to the substitute teacher deficit.
Area school districts have subscribed to Teachers on Call, a program that substitute teachers work through to find openings. Sun Prairie glanced at it, but its cost deterred further steps, Mikula said.
Another option is hiring full-time substitute teachers, but, since it’s expensive and requires a benefit plan, the district hasn’t moved in that direction either.
One option the district is looking into is using four-year college graduates with a three-year substitute teacher permit.
Although the candidates wont have a teaching degree, according to the district’s statues, it could be a possibility, Mikula said.
“We have to think differently,” Mikula said. “It certainly is a place we’re not happy with. We’re continuing to explore alternatives.”
Depending on the time of year, especially during trouble months like May, the number of absent teachers versus available substitutes is a problem. This ratio is called the fill rate.
The industry standard fill rate is from 97 percent to 98 percent. In May last year, there were several weeks below a 90 percent fill rate, Mikula said.
For the next three to four months, Mikula plans to study the fill rate, teacher absences and other variables to see what could be done to make sure classrooms are adequately staffed for students.
If a classroom is left without a teacher, classes can be combined, other teachers give up their preparation periods and non-teaching staff, like principals, can step in, Mikula said.
To need substitute teachers, first a teacher must not be able to attend class.
The average Sun Prairie Area School District teacher misses 11 days of school during the year, data shows.
“I always point out to people this does include those out on family and disability leave,” Mikula said. Sometimes, this can include being gone for weeks at a time.
Nearly 60 percent of these absences were medically related. The average teacher took eight or nine days off for those reasons, which is less than in years past. In the 2010-2011 school year, the average employee took around 11 days off for medical reasons.
Nearly 11 percent of absences last year were personal, professional development and miscellaneous categories, and student service, instruction and committees or meetings accounted for around 3 percent of absences in each category.
“We value the service our substitutes provide,” Mikula said. “But, when you walk into a class for one day and you’re taking over for the regular teacher, you don’t know where the class is coming in… you don’t know the children in the classroom… and they don’t have the same (curriculum) training our teachers do.”
As a result, the continuity of lessons is hurt, she said.
For more information about substitute teaching in the district, call Connie Sobczak at (608) 834-6504.
In other school news:
The board approved routine personnel hires and transfers including Laura Minoldo, Lance Douma, Chad Kavanaugh, Patrick Sheedy, Katherine Schmitt, Kristi Ruggles, Jennifer Rogers, Anthony Bilgrien, Megan Scullen, Alison Anderson, Nina Hernandez, Christin Hampton, Debra Dubuc, Lynn Cassini, Anthony Hall, Sheri McLean, Aliesha Rauls, Heather Wake and R. Muehlkamp. Resignations include FCCLA advisor Melissa Martin, special education assistant Andrea Maltman, receptionist Matt Silbernagel and district driver Michael Mroz.
Handbook updates were approved, which included renaming Good Friday to Spring Holiday, wording changes, defining second and third shifts for building and grounds personnel, increased timeline for flexible scheduling and moving sections around to be better organized.
Graduation requirements were revised to be compliant with the new STAR assessment test. Students need to be proficient in the STAR test at the 10th grade level. Previously, the district used the MAP test, and students had to show the same level of proficiency.