WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Right now, the School District of Palm Beach County has a critical need for substitute teachers as well as several other positions.
Teachers who are out sick or on leave are having a hard time finding substitutes to cover their classrooms.
Gail Williams, Director of Administrative and Non-instructional Staffing for the school district says, "Right now we have about 2800 substitute teachers," Gail Williams, director of administrative and non-instructional staffing for the school district, said. "However, we don't always get 100% fill rate. Right now, many of them are not working, so we are trying to increase our pool so we have more that are willing to come into work."
She said currently there is a 47% fill rate, meaning 47% of the subs are accepting jobs. A substitute teacher calling system will continue to put calls out until they can fill the spots open for the day.
Some substitutes are not comfortable working because of the COVID-19 situation, and others may not be comfortable with the technology needed to run the classroom right now. Subs are receiving training on google classroom and the same professional development available to teachers.
On the first day of in-classroom instruction on Sept. 21, 944 teachers were out on medical or personal leave. The district said it was able to cover the classrooms between subs and deploying other district employees.
"I would say it's a great opportunity because we hire a lot of our regular classroom teachers from our substitute teacher pool, so I think it's a great opportunity to get in there and see what our schools are like," Williams said. "Get to know the schools. Get to know the principals. Ultimately, many of our substitute teachers who have a bachelor's degree already do become regular classroom teachers for us."
When a teacher is going to be absent, he or she puts their absence into the sub locator system. Once they do, the sub locator will call out to find someone to take the spot until the position is filled.
"If they can't find someone, schools are very resilient and they are finding ways to make that work for their particular school," Williams said. "The administrators, many of them are tirelessly going out to assist schools that are in dire straights."
The challenges of COVID-19 put the shortage in perspective, when compared to one year ago.
"Last year at this time at the beginning of school we had a 97% fill rate, so as far as substitute teachers, they were willing to work," Williams said. "We had people in the classroom. We didn't have a shortage at all. The role of the substitute (is) to take on the role of the teacher so they have lesson plans to follow and, of course, the administration at the school is going to help that substitute teacher and not just put them in there on their own."
As far as other positions, there are 67 bus driver vacancies and 42 vacancies in maintenance and plant operations for custodians and trade positions the district is working to fill right away.
"This is something we really are working hard for," Williams said. "It's heartfelt for me. I want to see all of these positions filled. I want to see our kids have what they need in schools and I want to make sure our employees and people are given the opportunity to apply. There's a lot of pressure. We're trying everyday, recruiting everyday, contacting them. We've done a survey and those who are answering yes to wanting to work on the survey, they are emailed every day."