Help wanted: are you looking to teach? Good news, Grand Ledge is looking to hire.
Over the last few years Grand Ledge Public Schools has been consumed with a new problem, a lack of substitute teachers. The district is struggling to fulfill their need of 25-30 substitutes a day.
Grand Ledge Public School Superintindent Brian Metcalf believes he knows the reason why there is such a great need.
“There is two things happening I think. One is that the old, retired teachers that normally come back aren’t allowed to anymore because of the new law change. So every year you kind of have a new crop that is coming back in and enrolling in subbing. So every year it gets worse, worse and worse.”
“That and the connection with the economy getting better and more jobs being out there for capable people. I mean someone with 90 credits or higher are more employable so you have people in that system as well.”
However, Grand Ledge is not the only one facing this problem. Multiple other districts in the area are struggling with the same issue.
“It’s a huge problem in lots of local districts and from what I’ve heard across the state. It’s become a real issue. I think it’s connected too, overall, because of full-time teacher shortages and trouble filling those positions,” said Michigan State University Associate Professor and Director of Teacher Preparation Corey Drake. “Teacher enrollment is going down. There’s an imbalance in market, fewer people want to be a teacher. Grand ledge is not alone.”
Perry High School Principal Don Beck agrees that this is a common problem in the area, including Perry.
“This was a huge problem last year. It was once every second or third day that we couldn’t find enough subs to cover. It was through all the schools that we finally said hey something has to happen. We switched companies and now we have a ton of subs,” said Beck.
“So maybe the system they’re using is apart of Grand Ledge’s problem. We need to look at: what are their practices for policy for hiring? How much do they pay? What are they doing to retrain them? How are they recruiting?”
So, what happens when schools can’t find a substitute teacher to cover a class?
“We typically go to other teachers in the building to step in and teach on their planning time,” said Metcalf. “Then they will cover that class and be the substitute teacher. We have deans of students in some buildings that will step in in some scenarios. And, or, some principles that will step in during scenarios.”
“First of all, if Mrs. so and so calls in sick and no one picks it up we have to figure out whose going to cover that. It could be my reading teacher that has to get pulled out of reading but if that’s the case the students who need reading support don’t have the reading teacher for the day,” said Averill.
“It might be that I have to take a specials teacher out of gym or music and have them be a regular teacher. That means we don’t have gym or music that day. That’s suppose to be contractual when teachers get their planning time. So that’s a tricky thing.”
This spur of the moment subbing has become extremely frustrating to teachers and faculty continues Averill.
“They feel a sense of frustration when they feel they need to do something. Sometimes I get pulled out and I have to go jump in half a day or a full day. That means I can’t do my job and I’m the person whose suppose to be running the building. Or even if I don’t get pulled out for the whole day I could spend up to an hour or two trying to find someone instead of doing the others things I need to do.”
Parent of a Grand Ledge Public School Student Lise Mitchell says that she has not been well informed on the situation with substitutes in the district.
“I’m not frustrated but I haven’t really heard that they’re not finding enough subs. I just know that they’re always trying to find more. I know it’s tough when you’re trying to get something done and you’re taking away to cover a class. Maybe that’s why they’re making a push to call in early so they can pull from the pool sooner.”
This is not a long term solution says Drake, a new plan needs to be set in motion for the future.
“It’s not sustainable long term. We already put a lot of burden on teachers asking them to do additional work. Long term it’s not going to work. Teachers will burn out. It makes a challenging job already challenging. However, administration might have to pull someone out because there is no other option. They’re stuck. It might be the only plan they have right now.”
Looking towards the future the need to get the word out to the public is crucial.
“Grand Ledge is not the only district facing this problem,” said Drake. “I think the solution is recruiting more people to teach. That is with subs and real teachers. Districts can get together more to recruit.”