Chagrin Falls schools is entering this 2022-2023 school year in a much stronger position than in the past in the area of obtaining substitute teachers.
“We feel confident we will start the school year in a much better place than the previous two years,” Christopher Woofter, Director of Operations and Strategic Initiatives for the Chagrin Falls Exempted Village Schools, said last week.
Like districts throughout Ohio and across the country, Chagrin Falls had experienced substitute teacher shortages the past two years.
“Originally during the COVID pandemic, this was a result of more staff needing to quarantine and also substitute teachers having some general apprehension about working during the pandemic,” Mr. Woofter explained.
To address the shortage they experienced during COVID, the district increased daily substitute teacher pay to be more aligned to similar districts in order to retain talented substitute teachers and to attract new teachers as well.
In addition to the pay increase, the district advertised substitute teacher opportunities through social media and employment websites, Mr. Woofter explained, and also provided a one-day training course for all new substitute teachers to help them improve instructional strategies, connect to the districts instructional support staff, “and provide a deeper sense of confidence and belonging for these important professionals.”
In January, the district increased the daily pay rate from $105 per day for substitute teachers to $120 per day to be more in alignment with average pay among similar districts, Mr. Woofter said.
“The goal with this pay increase was to retain quality staff and encourage new staff to apply,” he added.
The increase followed a study the district conducted last fall of about 75 other districts in the Northeast Ohio area.
“Many other districts reported a lack of substitute teacher coverage at the time and many indicated they either had recently increased daily substitute teacher pay rates or were considering increasing the daily pay rate,” Mr. Woofter explained.
The Chagrin Falls schools has substitute employees pools for a number of job categories, Mr. Woofter continued, including substitute teachers, substitute educational aides, substitute bus drivers, substitute custodians and substitute food service workers.
The majority of their substitute employees are substitute teachers, he noted.
Earlier this year, during the months of March, April and May, the district continued to receive applicants for its substitute teaching pool and has hired a number of new substitute teachers.
They are currently interviewing applicants to begin Board of Education approval later this month and in September.
“The district continues to have solid applicant pools for open positions,” Mr. Woofter said, with the average teaching position often having over 50 qualified applicants per opening.
In some of the classified, non-teaching areas, the district has had a slight decrease in the applicant pools prior to the pandemic, but have still been able to fill positions with highly qualified employees, Mr. Woofter noted.
“The district does have a very solid reputation as an excellent place to work and often applicants tend to apply from other area districts for positions such as educational aides, bus drivers and custodians,” he said.
Mr. Woofter noted that substitute employees are an important part of the district’s workforce because when employees are absent, services such as classroom instruction, food preparation, cleaning schools, driving bus routes, and supporting students in the classroom must continue every day.
To that end, the district tends to run well when they have two to three substitute employees in each of the operational departments such as transportation (bus drivers), food service workers, custodians and educational aides, he said.
For substitute teachers, the pool needs to be larger such as 20 to 30 substitutes who are board approved and hold an active license for teaching/substitute teaching with the district, he said.
Most days, the district only utilizes about 10-12 substitutes, but on some occasions, when illness is high, the need increases to about 20-25.
The district has also employed permanent building substitute teachers over the last two school years and will continue that this year as well, Mr. Woofter said.
“What this means is that the district hires one substitute teacher per school to work every day of the year,” he explained. “They show up everyday and fill the first or most needed vacancy for that school.”
If all staff are present, the permanent building substitute teacher will be assigned to another school or serve as a support role in an existing classroom, he said.
“The district has had a great deal of benefit from these positions and the consistency with these permanent building substitute teachers provides a routine teacher that knows all of the students in the school and has a solid understanding of the daily routines within the building,” Mr. Woofter added.
The district continues to have open applications for substitute positions, he said.
“Being a substitute can be a very rewarding and meaningful experience, and it can provide a nice supplemental income for a person looking to still have flexibility within their career,” Mr. Woofter added. “The district has some rather excellent substitute teachers that have been serving the district for over five years or more.”