Beep. Beep. Beep. Another alarm, another day for the Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources at the Brockport School District to wake up and hope a substitute teacher is available.
Jerilee DiLalla, like other superintendents in school districts across the country is trying to fill enormous gaps in staffing brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the Brockport Central School District, substitute teachers and bus drivers have been extremely difficult to find.
Before the pandemic, DiLalla had about 300 people on the sub list. And now that number has dropped to 50.
For the Brockport School District and many others, it is hard to get people to apply for subbing positions.
“We are doing everything we can to get the word out.” DiLalla said. “We’re utilizing social media, we’re putting out Twitter blasts, Facebook blasts, we have it on our website, we’ve done a job fair, radio advertisements, Google ads, we are hitting it from all fronts. Word of mouth is still one of our biggest recruitment tools.”
With a shortage of substitutes, other teachers who are in their planning periods will take over a period for another teacher who could not make it in.
Not having their regular teacher has made it harder for students to learn the subject.
“It’s definitely more difficult to get through material with a substitute versus with our actual teacher.” Brockport High School junior, Berit Dauenhauer said. Almost always when our teacher comes back, we have to ‘relearn’ or go through the same stuff again. It’s a pain because then it sets us back from our scheduled lesson.”
Not only is this a difficult time for the students, but for the limited substitutes as well.
Most of the time, substitute teachers are not masters of the subjects they are teaching. They come in and can read what the teacher left on their sub plan, but they are not able to fully teach or answer most questions a child may have on that subject.
With an overall low number of substitutes, sometimes one sub may be called in and end up covering multiple classes.
“I was called in to substitute for a fifth-grade science class, halfway through my planning period I was asked to go cover a seventh grade ELA [English Language Arts] class for the rest of that block. I didn’t know I was going to do that when I walked into the school that day,” said substitute teacher Claire Odett.
Trying to get people to apply for the substitute teacher position is extremely difficult, but some positions that people do not think about are the operational positions. The Brockport School District has come up with some ways to entice people to apply.
“We did a $500 sign on stipend for our operational positions, which is our non-teaching staff-our teacher aids, our hall monitors, our bus drivers, our custodial staff,” said DiLalla.
Not only did the school do this, but they needed even more people. So, they found a way to include the staff they already had.
“We also did something where if you were referred by a staff member, the staff member got a $500 stipend for referring you, and then because you came in and you got hired, you also got a $500 sign on stipend,” added DiLalla.
Schools all over the world are in desperate need for workers.
The Brockport school district had 67 bus drivers before the pandemic, now they are down to 45. This is not enough to cover all five schools, especially when there are half days with no turnaround time for the drivers, along with field trips and athletics.
“We did have to shut down this [school] year, for two days due to a bus driver shortage,” said DiLalla.
The school district is doing everything it can to keep their students in school. If they do not have enough drivers they will combine routes. It might take longer to get to school, and the driver may have to get up a bit earlier, but it is keeping the students at school and learning what they need to graduate.
The Brockport Central School District administration is working tirelessly to get more people into positions at their school. With new and innovative ways to encourage people to join their team, their search is far from over.