Substitute teachers fill in when the need arises

Substitute teacher Bruce Beard looks on as a couple of Riverdale Elementary School students work on an assignment. Beard, semi-retired, fills in several days a week in the DeKalb Eastern and DeKalb Central systems. “I enjoy working with the kids,” Beard said. Teachers provide lesson plans and handouts for substitutes to give to students.

When parents have sick children, they call the school office to report the absence, and the students make arrangements with their teachers to complete any missed assignments.

It’s a different process — sometimes a challenging one — when school districts have to fill absences within the teaching staff. It can even be a competitive situation.

Some absences are planned or expected ones, such as maternity or professional leaves. Illnesses, however, can sometimes leave school officials scrambling to make sure classes are covered.

While many school districts in the four northeast Indiana counties partner with an employment agency or service for substitute teachers, others maintain their own lists and contact those individuals when teachers are out.

Lakeland School Corporation maintains a pool of 32 substitutes, human resources director Jenny Landez explained. The district has a part-time substitute coordinator that teachers contact in the event of absences or illness.

Some on the substitute list fill in on a part-time basis only or aren’t always available, she said.

On a typical day, there may be 10 substitutes — teachers and paraprofessionals — working throughout the district.

While fewer substitutes are needed on many days, there are instances, such as a recent professional development event and illness, where 21 staff members were out, and the district couldn’t find enough substitutes.

“Out of those 32 (on the list), they’re not always available to us,” Landez said. Some of those substitutes are also on lists of neighboring school districts and may have already committed to fill in elsewhere.

“It used to be that we would have a nice portion of teachers wanting to get into a classroom,” Landez continued. “Right now, with low employment and a teacher shortage, we really don’t have anyone waiting for a classroom spot.”

Lakeland pays $70 per day for licensed teachers or $60 per day for licensed substitutes. Paraprofessionals are paid at $13.30 per hour.

Neighboring Westview School Corporation works with WillSub PCMI for substitute teachers. Absences within the custodial department or cafeteria are filled by those department heads, explained superintendent secretary Yvonne Eash.

Even with the WillSub service, “We still hurt for subs on some days,” Eash said. While teacher absences are given priority, occasionally absences occur among paraprofessionals — formerly known as instructional aides — in the district’s applied skills program for students with severe disabilities.

It used to be Ronda Hostetler’s job to line up substitutes for the district’s five buildings — three K-4 buildings, a building for grades 5 and 6, and junior-senior high school.

Now Westview’s WillSub manager, Hostetler said, “It could be a nightmare” sometimes trying to make sure all the positions were filled on a given day.

For a while, she had a phone line in her home just for absences to be reported and to call substitutes.

“That would not have been a fun job,” Eash said.

While WillSub has helped with letting prospective substitutes know about jobs coming in, there was something about the human contact.

“One advantage with calling in person, they usually didn’t turn you down,” Hostetler said. “The human aspect was very helpful.”

Even with WillSub in place, there are instances where Hostetler still needs to call substitutes, usually when an absence is unexpected.

Hamilton Community Schools’ board of trustees recently approved a pay increase for substitute teachers.

There, retired teachers are paid $85 per day. Certified teachers are paid $80 per day. Noncertified substitutes earn $75 per day. Previously, the district paid a flat rate of $65.

In a KPC story from that school board’s Jan. 21 meeting, Superintendent Tony Cassel was quoted as saying the increase was made “to be more competitive in the sub market.”

The East Noble School Corporation and Metropolitan School District of Steuben County both work with the Region 8 Education Service Center for substitute teachers.

From its website, East Noble pays $90 per day for a regular classroom teacher or $75 per day for a special education instructional assistant.

A full college degree, even if not in education, is desirable, per the website. Minimum education requirements include 30 hours of certified college credit or 24 months of work experience with no more than two different employers within a 36-month period.

MSD Steuben pays $110 per day for retired teachers with an Indiana license, $100 per day for Indiana licensed teachers and $95 per day for Indiana permit teachers who have at least 30 college credit hours.

“We really enjoy using the Region 8 Service Center because our secretaries and principals are calling the same people at the same time for the same service,” said MSD Steuben Assistant Superintendent Ann Rice. “We do experience difficulty some days fielding enough subs.”

In DeKalb County, DeKalb Central, DeKalb Eastern and Garrett-Keyser-Butler all partner with WillSub for substitute teachers. All three districts have links to that website where people interested in serving as substitutes can apply.

Interested candidates must complete a background check, identification, provide licensing information and video training to be considered, explained Julie Christensen, human resources coordinator at Garrett-Keyser-Butler schools.

Upon completion, those individuals become WillSub employees, where they can indicate the type of building and substitute assignment of interest, as well as days they would be available. That information is shared with school officials for approval.

“I feel like it’s been a good move for us,” Christensen said. “There are days where you could have 20 staff members out due to professional development or illness. Trying to get those filled before school starts would be a real challenge.”

On average, Garrett has about 11 absences within its district, including absences, maternity, bereavement, professional, personal, sick days and jury duty, she added.

Garrett pays $75 per day for noncertified individuals and $80 for certified teachers regardless if they are subbing for teachers or paraprofessionals.

Like Garrett, DeKalb Eastern used to hire substitutes itself. For the past few years, it partnered with an employment agency before switching to WillSub for the 2019-2020 school year.

Before the switch, one staff member at the high school and one staff member at the elementary level were responsible for procuring substitutes for the district’s three buildings.

“I think it’s wonderful because we don’t have to be on the phone calling everybody,” said Tammy Pence, who works in payroll and human resources in the DeKalb Eastern central office.

“We have a bigger pool to choose from since all three districts use WillSub, as long as they’re willing to go to any of the schools,” she added. “It makes life a lot easier.”

Pay rates at DeKalb Eastern are $75 per day for noncertified substitutes and $85 per day for certified substitutes.

While the district uses WillSub, Riverdale Elementary secretary Tammy Neireiter still makes occasional calls for substitutes at Riverdale and Butler elementary.

“There’s still times I’m calling substitutes, especially if it’s a today thing,” she said. “There’s ones I can call or text, or the teachers will reach out directly.”

Before switching over to the service, Neireiter would make calls for substitutes. “It wasn’t a big deal for our district because of our size,” she said. “We have very few out at Riverdale, maybe three or four in a week.

“We try to work ahead and fill (absences) with substitutes who are already familiar with our procedures,” she said.

While rare, in cases of several absences on the same day, aides or Riverdale Principal Brennen Kitchen, lead classes.

“We’re fine if we can plan ahead,” Neireiter said.

Wednesday, there were 19 substitutes filling in through the Westview district because of illness, maternity or professional leave, Hostetler said. At the high school this week, she knows of 27 instances of teachers who will be out either for maternity or professional leave.

At Westview, a substitute without a license is paid $70 per day or $40 for a half day. That rate jumps to $100 per day for a licensed teacher with at least three years of experience for a full day or $55 per half day.

After 25 days, the rate is $110 per day or $60 for a half day for a licensed teacher working as a substitute at Westview.

Being a substitute has the potential to a full-time teaching position or is good for a retired teacher still wanting a connection to the classroom.

“It’s a good job if you’re someone who doesn’t have to work every day,” Hostetler said.

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.