Some forced to sniffle through class when subs aren’t
Gilroy – Cecelia McCormack’s nose was runny, her voice scratchy. Her student’s even commented on her sickly appearance.
But the Brownell Middle School science teacher had no choice – she had to sniffle her way through class last week because no substitutes were available.
McCormack’s scenario is a common occurrence lately. Since Gilroy Unified School District competes with Morgan Hill, Los Banos and Hollister in the substitute search, obtaining a temporary teacher on short notice is difficult, said Kim Filice, GUSD director of human resources.
And this year it’s even worse.
“Lately there has been a shortage of subs,” Filice said.
Last year the district drew from a total of 105 substitutes. As of Monday, GUSD had 95 substitutes signed up – 10 fewer temporary teachers than in the ’04-05 school year.
Ninety-five substitutes doesn’t leave a very deep pool of choices for a district that has one high school, a continuation high school, three middle schools and eight elementary schools. Adding to the shortage is the fact that some substitutes specify that they can only work one or two days a week or will only sub at a certain school site.
In Gilroy, subs receive $120 a day and $65 for a half day. Long-term substitutes are compensated $140 per day, if they’re assigned to a school for one week or longer.
Potential substitutes are individually interviewed and hired by Linda Piceno, GUSD assistant superintendent of human resources. Not every applicant is hired. The pool of substitutes GUSD draws from usually interview and accept jobs in surrounding districts, said Filice.
The district uses an automated system that begins calling substitutes at 5am and ends at 10pm. The next day, if the job is still unfilled, subs are called again at 5am.
Of course, teachers who request a replacement in advance have an easier time.
“But if teachers start calling in at 7 in the morning then it’s really hard to get a sub,” said Filice. “(From) 6:45am on it’s really hard to get a sub because they’re already assigned.”
Sick teachers, such as McCormack, will often show up in the morning and hope a substitute will be available later in the day. Substitutes will continue to receive calls from the automated system throughout the day in addition to live calls from the district’s human resources secretary.
“There are times when, unfortunately, we don’t have anyone in our sub pool and the principal or a resource teacher will have to cover,” said Filice.
Filice said she’s not sure why the sub shortage is more severe this school year, but a few elements could have contributed to the increase. In the past, substitutes usually wanted to work part-time but lately the temps want jobs five days a week. Filice assumes that means more subs are accepting long-term assignments.
Also, more job opportunities in Gilroy have probably drawn locals to other businesses and decreased the number of substitutes, she said.
Bill Flodberg thinks he may know why GUSD has a difficult time pulling in subs. The San Martin resident and retired teacher used to work as a substitute in Gilroy, but after several years dealing with below-average students, he decided to only sub in Morgan Hill.
“Mainly the Morgan Hill schools are a little bit easier to work for in terms of the students,” he said.
Flodberg said another reason GUSD may have a sub shortage is because Morgan Hill pays $120 a day. When informed that GUSD now pays the same, Flodberg wasn’t impressed.
“So pay is not the issue,” he said. “The only issue is they should pay them more.”
An extra incentive is the only way to encourage subs to work in a district that has such a high number of English learners, because right now Morgan Hill is the premiere choice, said Flodberg.
“I would assume that if they had a choice between Morgan Hill and Gilroy they’d teach in Morgan Hill,” he said.