Substitute teacher shortage leaves BC teachers sacrificing prep periods

Gabriella Backus, Online Editor-in-Chief

Every morning, vice principal secretary Tammy Alexander starts her day by trying to find substitutes for absent teachers. More often than not, she runs into the same problem: too many absent teachers, and not enough substitutes to fill their places.

Lodi Unified School District’s (LUSD) official website has a page on substitute positions within the district. To become a substitute teacher, a substitute application packet must be completed, along with a resume, a bachelor’s degree in any subject, and proof of a negative Tuberculosis (TB) test. Those interested must also undergo a fingerprint test and criminal history check.

The site claims the role of substitute teacher is to “employ people to teach students when the regular teacher must be away from their assignment.” These positions may be for one day or for a longer period of time.

Although the premise seems simple, LUSD has fallen flat in employing enough substitutes to fill empty positions for years.

“We have cases where 66 percent of a school’s sub positions are unfilled,” said LUSD school board president George Neely in a “Lodi News-Sentinel” article after receiving complaints from agitated teachers.

Personnel attendant Marianne Ono, who manages all substitute jobs in LUSD, attributes the problem to the fluidity of the job.

“We are processing subs all the time, but on any given day, there can be more jobs than people available,” Ono said. “Right now, flu season makes the subs sick, and then they can’t work. Fridays and Mondays are big days for subs.”

If there are no substitutes remaining in the district, limited options remain.

“The only people who can step in are certificated staff,” Alexander said. “When teachers decide to cover a class, they probably miss out on preparing for their next class for the day. That’s something they just have to decide. If they can’t cover, I just have to find another teacher.”

Some teachers, however, appreciate the extra pay that comes with subbing.

“I don’t mind giving [my prep] up; the extra pay is nice, unless I am busy,” English teacher Kristen Graham, who has subbed about seven times in the past month, said.

Bear Creek often sends in teachers who willingly agree to give up their prep period in exchange for one period of subbing where they are paid at an adjunct rate based on their salary. Full day substitutes earn about $125 a day.

Ono claims that the problem is unavoidable.

“We’re processing everyone as quickly as we can, but as soon as we process them, a few drop off to get a new job,” Ono said. “It’s a transient pool. We have people who only want to sub only at certain schools, we have people who are students who want to try subbing. It’s not really a career, it’s something people do for a while, then move on, so it’s constantly changing.”

“Maybe raising the salary would help to draw in more substitutes,” Alexander said.