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Just under half of Albemarle County’s requests for substitute teachers were filled in the first part of the school year, and the county may boost substitute pay to address the shortage.
Before the pandemic, about 80% or more of the requests were filled, said Dan Redding, the division’s director of human resources. Currently, the division has 75 active substitutes but Redding said they need 150 who are working several days a week.
“We have a number of subs who work occasionally potentially at their child’s school or a school in their neighborhood,” Redding said. “That’s fantastic. We need them. They’re providing a really important service. We are looking to enhance, though, the group of people who are frequently taking jobs to fill more of our vacancies.”
To do that, the division has a multi-pronged plan that includes hiring 25 permanent substitutes — one at each school — and a coordinator to recruit, train and support the employees. The division also is considering an unspecified rate increase. Substitute teachers are currently paid $97 a day.
Other school systems in the area, including Charlottesville, have already raised their rates. Charlottesville substitutes now make $140 a day and other school divisions are paying $100 a day.
“We are falling behind in that metric,” Redding told board members earlier this month.
The board does not have to approve the pay increase, though, Redding said. As of earlier this week, administrators had not made a final decision about the increase.
Clare Keiser, assistant superintendent for organizational development and human resource leadership, told School Board members at a meeting earlier this month that they would like to match Charlottesville’s pay, if possible.
“We know that we often compete for the same people, especially within our urban ring,” Keiser said. “So we feel that to make us competitive, we would need to do that.”
Those changes will be paid for from unexpected additional revenue from the county government. The Board of Supervisors recently approved a mid-year budget amendment to spend the estimated $20.3 million in new revenue that’s projected to come in this fiscal year.
The school division received $10.3 million of that. At a School Board meeting earlier this month, division staff recommended spending $2.6 million toward workforce stabilization. That would include hiring the coordinator and full-time substitutes, which would be eligible for benefits and make at least $15.10 an hour.
School principals began interviewing for the full-time positions earlier this month, and Redding said the goal was to have them hired by next month.
Substitute shortages have been an issue for several years for Albemarle and other school systems. In 2019, the division implemented several measures including hiring a permanent substitute to float between schools and an incentive for retired teachers to come back to the classroom.
Currently, the division pays retired teachers $125 a day.
Redding said the plan is to make the school-based positions permanent in the upcoming budget.
Every school will hire a sub who reports to that school every single day. Fill in for any vacancy anywhere it’s needed. But they’re guaranteed that work every day so they’re not waiting to get a call saying there’s a vacancy.
When a substitute teacher isn’t available, other teachers or school staff in the building often cover their colleague’s classes, Redding said. Those who do so receive additional pay.
“That helps but the continual time missed with planning and the added demands that that puts on our teachers does take a toll,” Redding said.
The number of teacher absences is comparable to previous school years, so Redding said the shortage of substitutes is the primary issue.
The presentation on spending options was a starting point for board discussion. Division staff will bring a formal recommendation to the board next month.