A shortage of substitute teachers during a time when the demand has never been higher has left Fayette County Public Schools trying to find ways to fill daily absences caused by Covid-19.
There has always been a need for substitutes during normal years, but the need is greater this year due to the pandemic. Teachers out sick, on quarantine, or needing to take care of an ill family member has caused a greater number of absences.
For the same reasons, many substitutes who have worked in previous years are not available to fill in, or do not feel comfortable being in a classroom right now.
Addressing the shortage, the school system has ramped up its recruitment efforts to attract and retain substitutes by reducing the education requirements for daily (short-term) substitutes from a bachelor’s degree to “some college education,” and a pay increase of $20 per hour after a substitute works 40 days during a school year.
Another way the shortage is being met is through county office administrators who voluntarily agree to serve as substitutes for a day. Dr. Julie Turner, assistant superintendent of student achievement, was one of the first administrators in line to volunteer. Her assignment was a kindergarten class at Inman Elementary School.
Twenty-four years have passed since she was a classroom teacher, teaching middle and high school science. Although she has never taught elementary-aged students before, the environment was not totally foreign to Turner: she was an elementary administrator for almost 12 years. Working with the kindergarteners brought back fond memories of her elementary school days.
“I had so much fun hanging out with the kindergarten students! My favorite part of the day was teaching math with 10 frames,” says Turner.
The opportunity gives county office administrators a first-hand look at how educators have had to adapt in what has been a very challenging time for teachers. Inman Elementary School Principal Louis Robinson says this new way of addressing the need for substitutes brings benefits beyond filling teacher absences.
“It empowers our schools. It also empowers county office staff in ways that are very beneficial to both county level administrators, as well as strengthening collaboration between the two parties.”
It also gave Janel Shuler, the teacher Turner was subbing for, peace of mind that her students were receiving quality instruction from a well-seasoned educator, who also happens to be the county office administrator charged with overseeing curriculum and instruction for the entire school system.
As for how Turner performed during her first stint teaching kindergarten, Robinson summed it up in one word, “Wow!”
“Julie made the difference for Staci (classroom paraprofessional) and the students all day! She was the ultimate team player. She stepped out of her role and became a key player in support of students and staff,” says Robinson. “Julie was excellent. She had fun and was worn out by the end of the day, but with a smile!”