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Schools hit ‘All Call’ button for substitute teachers

Posted Date: 10/09/2020

In recent years, the demand for substitute teachers has exceeded the supply of available subs at certain times of the school year. This fall, the shortage began in September.

At Chanute Elementary, first graders were surprised to see Principal Eric Hoops walk into their classroom. It was time for art. There was no mistake, Hoops told them, he would be teaching them art that day. Elsewhere in the building, Assistant Principal Brooke Wire and Teacher on Special Assignment Jennifer Rausch were taking turns teaching PE. It was another day when the need for substitutes couldn’t be filled.

principal hoops hands out art projectArt teacher Brett Rinehart left lesson plans and materials, and Hoops, who told the students he’d never taught art before, demonstrated he could handle classroom questions, engage the first graders in a conversation about which animal they’d choose to be if they could change for one day of the year. He even held quiet conversations with reluctant artists.

The seriousness of the shortage is reflected in the new “hat” that USD 413 Superintendent Kellen Adams is wearing this week.

“Every opportunity I get I am asking everyone to recruit one person. I’m going to give that spiel everywhere I go,” Adams said.

He took the idea from KSHSAA who has run into an extreme shortage of sports officials.

“It’s a lot easier to ask every person to recruit one person. They can probably do that,” Adams said, rather than one person trying to recruit everyone. “If that will catch even 20 percent into the net” it will alleviate some of the shortage.

There’s always been a steady supply of retired teachers willing to substitute teach a few days each month or even a long-term stint for a teacher on leave for a couple months. Now, with COVID, many of the older retirees aren’t willing to come back into the classroom this year.

Even before the threat of a pandemic, CES took steps last year to study the issue and develop ideas or incentives to attract new substitutes to the classroom.

One change approved by the school board was a better pay schedule for substitute teachers. The base pay for a substitute teacher is $100 per day. Now, that base will increase according to the number of days a substitute works over the course of a school year. After subbing more than 10 days, the rate increases to $110 per day. After 21 days, it is $120 per day and after working more than 31 days, substitutes will make $130 for every full day worked.

Another perk is the convenience of getting lunch from the school cafeteria, at no charge. When someone accepts that substitute phone call at 6 a.m. they won’t need to pack a lunch to take with them. They just say yes they want to eat, and sign their name when they go through the cafeteria line to pick up their food.

Principals and staff have also created a handbook for subs to have, that answers many frequently asked questions. CES Principal Brooke Wire has also organized some professional development time for substitutes. Based on their answers to a recent survey, the subs want to learn more about technology and instructional technology.

School administrators are anxious to set the record straight about the qualifications needed to be a substitute teacher.principal hoops substitutes for art teacher

According to the state Dept. of Education website, the state of Kansas doesn’t require someone to have a teaching degree to substitute in a school classroom. Anyone with 60 hours at an accredited college or university can apply for an emergency teaching license which is good for one year.

“The license is good anywhere in the state of Kansas,” Adams said. “So even if you only get called by a district once or twice a week, you can probably work every day by accepting assignments from several schools in the area.”

Adults who’ve accumulated 60 hours at college but didn’t graduate, or students who’ve completed 60 hours at a community college would be eligible to substitute teach and make some extra money while finishing school or looking for full-time work.

A few other criteria, per state guide lines, are required before anyone can teach in a public school, including:

  • Fingerprinting for background check
  • TB test
  • Fee for license which is valid for a year

To access the state site, go to: 

“The licensing process must be completed before they can step into a classroom,” Adams said.

For answers to other employment questions, contact the district’s Human Resources personnel at 432-2500.