Superintendent's Message - November 2015
Posted by Robin Smith on 11/3/2015
I am certain that all of you are aware of the substitute shortage we are currently experiencing in the district. Though this shortage applies to all professions (secretary, custodial, cafeteria, paraprofessional) I will focus my comments today on the teacher substitute shortage. After only 45 student days, the Hollidaysburg Area School District has had 128 sub vacancies (both full day and half day) go unfilled. We are on pace to exceed our total from last year. The sub crisis is not limited to Hollidaysburg. Other local school districts are reporting similar issues. Two districts in particular who decided to outsource with a substitute teacher service are experiencing lower fill rates than they had before going with the agency. Philadelphia City School District has an average fill rate of 20%!
One theory is that the economy has improved so there are fewer subs available. Another article noted that when education majors graduate from college they are likely to have college debt to pay off. When they don’t receive a full time position, they tend to take a job in retail or another field that can ensure steady work (and in turn a steady paycheck) in addition to the possibility of health care benefits rather than substitute teach.
The topic has gotten the attention of the state legislature. The Pennsylvania Senate and House Education Committees held a hearing earlier this week focused on the substitute teacher shortage. Testimony from a number of school district leaders echoed similar dilemmas as the ones we are facing when principals must scramble to fill vacant classrooms. A number of remedies are being discussed. One would allow anyone with an associate’s degree in education or the credit equivalent to get certified as a substitute. This would allow education majors at local universities to fill sub vacancies that do not interfere with their coursework. Another solution that has been mentioned would remove the requirement of districts to only use retired teachers in an emergency situation. Retirees would be permitted to work up to a certain number of days as a substitute teacher without jeopardizing their pension.
A number of solutions have also been discussed within the district such as increasing the sub rate (currently at $85), providing loyalty bonuses (pay increases) to subs who exceed 20 or 40 days without any cancellations, and hiring more full time day to day subs at the start of the year.
I thank those of you who have offered input/suggestions. Please continue to send ideas my way. Also, take time to thank the substitutes who are in our buildings and let them know how important they are to us. Top quality substitute teachers play a critical role in achieving and maintaining a quality school system. We need to do what is necessary to ensure that part of our foundation remains strong.
Accolades – Congratulations to the administration and staff of the senior high. Earlier this week, School Performance Profile scores were released for high schools across the state. The senior high score has improved for the third consecutive year, rising to an impressive 89.9. This increase has come as a result of a lot of hard work of the district/school administration and teacher leaders, not just in the tested departments, but from throughout the school. As one teacher put it, “It has been a total team effort.” We all know that preparing our students for standardized assessments is not what we are here for, but it is unfortunately the game we have to play right now. The fact that we are doing it so well while still maintaining a quality educational experience for our students is quite an accomplishment. Congratulations to all.