School Staffing Crunch: New Methods Aim to Recruit Substitute Teachers

Schools are facing a crisis nationwide to recruit and retain qualified teachers, and the ripple effect is also being felt in a lack of substitute teachers to provide necessary back-up support and minimize disruptions in education.

For example, during the first week of December in Toledo, Ohio, the district had 182 substitutes, compared to 236 for the same period last year, the teachers’ union told the district’s Board of Education. As of mid-October, the district had 241 substitutes, compared to 393 for the same period last year.

Though the district recruits for substitute teachers and holds orientation programs, it has to contend with the fact that it can only offer substitute wages (currently between $79.09 and $90.49 a day, depending on experience) versus other school systems offering a regular teaching contract.

Staffing Agencies Fills the Gap

Recently, Eudora Public Schools in Eudora, Kansas, signed a staffing agreement with Morgan Hunter Companies, a Kansas City-based staffing agency.

If a faculty member is sick or needs an unexpected day off, the staffing agency will offer a replacement starting on a trial basis in February, running through May.

The contract marks the first time a Kansas school district has relied on a temp agency for substitute teaching services, though school districts in 48 other states have used similar programs, according to The Eudora News.

Substitute Teachers of the Semester

To combat current shortages and provide a means to preventing future gaps, Kelly Educational Staffing has started recognizing employees who have “demonstrated outstanding performance and service, and have made valuable contributions as substitute teachers.”

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The awards, known as Substitute Teachers of the Semester, were handed out for the first semester of the 2006-2007 school year.

“Kelly is proud of our many substitute teachers who are not only dedicated and show great enthusiasm in their role, but who also demonstrate a genuine commitment to providing a productive learning environment in the classroom,” said Scott Smith, vice president for Kelly Educational Staffing, in a release.

The program offers awards and gift certificates to top-performing substitutes, as well as ongoing performance feedback. At the end of the school year, top-ranking teachers are eligible to become Kelly’s National Substitute Teacher of the Year.

Training is another option, and James Rowley’s and Patricia Hart’s book, entitled Recruiting and Training Successful Substitute Teachers: Participant’s Notebook, looks to train education recruiters in the facets involved in securing a quality pool of substitute teachers. The multimedia kit specially designed for school districts was field-tested for two years in Michigan and Ohio, and endorsed by both states’ personnel management teams.

The program for recruiting and training substitute teachers includes instructions for organizing, promoting, and leading training, as well as other multimedia materials for use in conducting training workshops.

Elaine Rigoli has nearly 15 years of experience managing content and community for various B2B and consumer websites. Elaine has written thousands of business and technology articles and has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal and eWeek, among other publications.

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