Substitute Shortage Affecting Salisbury High School

By Alex Diamond

Over the past couple of years, there have been a shortage of day to day substitute teachers at Salisbury High School and other school districts across Pennsylvania. There have been many different ways that schools have tried to mitigate the situation and allow for coverage to be provided when teachers are outside the classroom.

One way that schools have been managing substitutes is by outsourcing their substitute rosters to outside organizations. These companies, like Source4Teachers and Substitute Teacher Service, are then responsible for giving job assignments and making sure the substitutes are paid. While this method saves money, not everyone likes this approach. Lorie Spohn, who is a substitute teacher, does not think this approach works well. “It takes away the sub’s freedom and the ability to be their own free agent.” Salisbury does not use this method currently and puts substitute teachers on their payroll.

Another method that school districts have used to promote substituting is by giving day-to-day substitutes full-time hours and benefits, although it is paid at the substitute’s daily rate rather than as a full-time teacher. School districts in the area that use this method include Northern Lehigh School District and Bethlehem Area School District. Ms. Spohn does not think that would appeal to her. “I like the freedom of working when I want to. It’s a hard job going from place to place from elementary to high school and I would not like to do that every day.”

Other school districts, including Salisbury, have full-time teachers cover classes during the non-guaranteed part of their prep and part-time teachers substitute during the time of the day that they would not normally be in. Jessica Chong, a physical education/health teacher is asked on occasion to cover forty minutes of a class with a different teacher covering the other forty minutes. She is usually given same day notice when she is asked to cover. “We really don’t know if a sub is not available until morning of. Sometimes subs cancel at the last minute.”

The final way that school districts have managed the substitute crisis is by expanding who can be a substitute. Guest teacher programs in certain school districts allow non-certificated professionals with a Bachelor’s Degree to be day-to-day substitutes on an emergency certificate for that school district for a specified period of time, normally one full school year. These emergency certificates can be renewed upon the request of the school district. Salisbury uses guest teachers when needed. They generally complete the emergency certification process through I.U. 21, who provides training courses. Ms. Spohn thinks that is a good idea. “If they’re up to the job, then that’s fine.”

Miss Chong has seen a decline in the number of substitute teachers in the past few years. “Yes, I’ve noticed a slight trend. We are in need of more subs than ever.” She feels that it could be because substitute teachers do not usually want to do that permanently. “If they’re finding that it’s difficult to find a full-time teaching job, they might want to pursue a different career.” Ms. Spohn, who thinks that Salisbury is a great school, has not noticed the trend as much, but talked about why it might have declined. “Fewer people are going into education.”

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