Lack of subs causes teachers to help

A scarcity of substitute teachers in Bellevue Public Schools caused teachers to cover other classrooms where needed.

BPS utilizes the Frontline system in which staff can enter their absence request, according to Assistant Principal Nathaniel Bacon. He said this request is then approved by building and district administrators depending on the reason of absence. From there, the Frontline system notifies available subs of the absence and they can then choose to take the position or not.

“If subs are not found, then it is up to us within the building to find coverage,” Bacon said. “We utilize the Sub Bucks program for staff members to cover classes during their plan, in which teachers are paid 25.00 per hour, period, that they cover.”

Surrounding districts use this system as well. Omaha Public Schools also pays $25 per hour according to Central High School teacher Hillary Blayney. Board member Mary Roarty of Ralston Public Schools said teachers receive $30 per hour, or period, they cover.

“It is important for teachers to be willing to cover in other classrooms, but we also know that there are times when teachers cannot due to other obligations and planning that they need to get done,” Bacon said.

Bacon said the sub shortage is not just a BPS issue, but a state and nation-wide concern. He said when a sub has down time, they are also utilized in other classes that need them. East also has roaming teachers during some periods that look for classes that need to be covered.

“Ultimately, we are all one team working together to help each other out,” Bacon said. “We want to be willing to help each other out, so that when we need help, others are willing to help support us.”

Instructor Rachel Carraher said she covered two classes so far this year, but has been asked to cover six times. She said this year is unique because she has a student teacher who has a local sub certificate which has allowed her to fill in as a substitute when Carraher is gone.

“Typically once or twice a year I may have an open sub job that does not get filled,” Carraher said. “However, on average my jobs are filled. Sub jobs are often not filled when the absence is unexpected and on short notice.”

Freshman Melannie Gonzalez said if teachers are having to cover other classrooms, their pay should make up for that. She said she notices a difference in the classroom when there is a substitute.

“I think the class is a lot louder than normal and we do not get the stuff that we usually have to do done,” Gonzalez said.

Carraher said when she does have a substitute, she still leaves notes to have her students complete  work and rarely has them watch a video. She said if she expects the sub to do some teaching, it is difficult to guarantee that it will happen if she has co-workers covering classes. She said she does not think it is fair to ask them to have to teach another class during their plan period so that they do not lose that time.

“I know that I always want to be able to help out my coworkers if I can,” Carraher said. “However, I also have to put myself first when it comes to making sure I am getting all the things I need to do for the day and upcoming days. Teachers rely on their plan periods to help them minimize staying late or having to take work home with them.”

Substitue Stevins Spurgeon said he feels a substitute’s job is important because today there is a lack of stability in many homes, so when that stability leaves the classroom, it is a substitute’s job to provide that again. He said his focus as a sub is to spend his time wisely and encourage students while he is here to believe in themselves. He said he wants to be the light they may not experience and that when he takes a sub job, he uses it as an opportunity to teach students lessons they may not hear anywhere else.

“I look at substituting first and foremost as an opportunity to be able to reach kids who are not being reached,” Spurgeon said.

Spurgeon said he started subbing because it was a good way to make decent money and to maintain the flexibility he wanted to do other things. He said people may become uneasy with being subs because of the lack of guarantee there will be a job every day.

“It might be increasingly hard to find subs right now because the economy is pretty good,” Spurgeon said. “So a lot of people who did not have the opportunity to get those full time jobs with the stability they want, they have that now.”