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Category: News

Shortage of Substitute Teachers at Indian River Schools

April 12, 2022

Editor’s Note: There has been no final decision made yet on what was presented today. This was only presented to the School Board so they can make a final decision on what they want to do.

At yesterday’s School District of Indian River Superintendent Workshop, Presentation Agenda Item 3H Substitute Presentation, discussed the shortage of Substitute teachers in the School District of Indian River County. Deputy Superintendent Scott Bass was supposed to present this item to the School Board, but was absent from today’s workshop. Superintendent Dr. David Moore presented it in Bass’s place.

School Board Member Dr. Mara Schiff, Ph.D (District 1 – Roseland) was absent from the Superintendent Workshop.

No action has to be taken on this item until May or June, when the salary handbook comes to the School Board.

Dr. Moore calling the Substitute teacher shortage a “major point of contention” with the school district in the past three years. He said it has been “very difficult” to hire substitutes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To be a Substitute Teacher, individuals are required to have an Associates Degree or higher. Noneducation Majors must complete the STEDI Course, that consists of an 8-hour basic skills training course. The requirements include classroom management, teaching strategies, the professional teacher, special education, orientation & legal issues, fill-in activities and then receive a certificate upon completing the course, according to the presentation given during this agenda item. There is also a “pre-employment screening” that is required to be passed prior to hiring. Dr. Moore said this was to ensure we have the “appropriate people in place that are appropriately trained.”

Currently, as of April 4th, the School District has 92 Substitute Teachers that have been hired, 241 active Substitute Teachers and 176 Substitute Teachers that have worked in the District this year. Dr. Moore said “we are constantly rebuilding this bench all the time.” Some of the people Substititute since they may have a connect to the school, like a child/grandchild or are a coach at that school, according to Dr. Moore.

Currently, as of March 2022, the Substitute Fill Rate is:

  • The Elementary Schools in the School District of Indian River County have 75% of its Substitute spots filled, with 25% being unfilled

  • The Middle Schools in the School District of Indian River County have 63% of its Substitute spots filled, with 37% being unfilled

  • The High Schools in the School District of Indian River County have 79% of its Substitute spots filled, with 21% being unfilled

Dr. Moore would like to see all the Substitute positions at these schools fully filled. He said due to the vacancies, it has been putting a burden on these schools. Support personel, teachers in the secondary schools giving up their planning periods, have been teaching classes, where Substitutes should be teaching. Elementary Schools specifically, kids are split up into other classrooms, increasing class sizes. Dr. Moore said this creates an additional burden on the teachers having to take on kids they don’t know that well. Dr. Moore said the teacher’s union has been advocating that the School District of Indian River stop doing this in the future. Dr. Moore agrees and that “we need to look into that.”

Dr. Moore compared the current compensation rates for Substitute teachers in Indian River to rates in other Counties, show how our County is lower than the others. According to Dr. Moore’s presentation, the current rate Average Day Rate is $95.00 a day for Indian River County. Brevard Public Schools has an Average Day Rate of $107.60 and St. Lucie County Schools has a daily rate of $97.50/$126.00 critical needs/LT $160.00 > 21 days. The South Florida (which includes St. Lucie County) Day Rate is $85.28. The compensation for Substitute teachers is also lower than the CWA pay. CWA stands for Communication Workers of America (which is a labor union). According to the St. Lucie Public Schools Salary Schedule Book, these workers are considered to be “food service, bus drivers and maintenance.”

The new proposed rates would be $130 and $160 for Long term Substitutes, allowing for better market competition, matching St. Lucie Public Schools. Long term Substitutes cover for teachers who are out for a long period of time, such as for maternity leave or a long term injury, according to Dr. Moore.

Dr. Moore also said there is currently a cost analysis being done of creating a development Cadre of Substitute teachers. These Substitutes would be full time employees working every day, that will always be working in this district. This will allow relations to be built between the Cadre Substitute and the students, showing consistency of who will be Substituting at their school.

Dr. Moore said when he was a Principal, had a Pool Substitute, which would be similar to the Cadre Substitutes. Dr. Moore said if it was a rare case of 100% coverage, this person could “do interventions or additional coverage” in classrooms.

Substitutes under the proposal would be called “Guest Teachers.” According to Superintendent Dr. Moore, this is being done so that the Substitutes feel they are more valued. Dr. Moore is also looking to remove any stigma that surrounds Substitutes in our culture by making this title change. This is being done too so that Substitute teachers are more respected by students in School District of Indian River County Schools.

Dr. Moore pointed out that Substitutes/Guest Teachers would be making less than regular teachers in the school district; Substitutes/Guest Teachers will not be receiving benefits.

Dr. Moore said when the School District reaches its Substitute Teacher/Guest Teacher goal, they would be able to have other School staff members focus on their jobs and make sure teachers do not end up with extra students in their classes.

School Board Member Jackie Rosario (District 2 – Vero Beach) was the Board Member who had requested the item be added to the agenda. Rosario said she had been approached by a Mom, January Lloyd, who was in the audience during the workshop. Rosario mentioned that January is an “active member” of the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) at Storm Grove Middle School. When introducing January, Rosario initially mentioned that January has a child in High School. She checked with January to be sure. January pointed out that she has two children in High School and one in Middle School. January is also a Substitute Teacher.

Rosario said she found the pay/salary for Substitute teachers to be “concerning.” Rosario mentioning “you can’t address things you don’t know.” She had a meeting with Dr. Moore before the Superintendent’s Workshop to discuss this concern, to learn more about it. Rosario felt this is the right time to look into it. Rosario said she would “without a question” support the pay increase. She also pointed out how we are one of the “lowest on the pay scale for Substitute teachers and we know the devastations that happen when we don’t have enough subs or when people “say it’s not worth it for me to sub for this amount of money a day, especially when you’re in some challenging schools or some challenging classrooms and you’re disrespected, you’re not listened to, you’re not the actual teacher, so on and so forth.”

There is a different pay scale for substitutes who have an Associates Degree versus a Bachelor’s Degree. Currently, the hourly rate for a Substitute with an Associates Degree is $10.00/hour or $75.00 per day. Anyone who has a Bachelor’s Degree or higher, is paid $12.667/hour or $95.00 per day. This increases after 50 days of Substituting to $13.33/hour or $100.00/day.

Rosario had asked during the workshop about the different pay substitutes with an Associates Degree get versus one who has a Bachelor’s Degree. The proposed $130 increase would be for the Bachelor’s degree. Rosario asked if the Associates Degree Substitutes would see an increase in pay. She told by a District staff member the numbers would have to be “worked out” on the final presentation and with the District’s Chief Financial Officer, Ronald A. Fagan for the “final numbers.” Rosario asked “that definitely would not stay at $75 a day” with a reply of “no” from one of the District staff members.

Rosario went on to ask about the 50th day clause. She asks what happens on the new proposed scale, “what happens to the proposed pay scale” and “do we really need the 50th pay?” Rosario had the staff member explain what the 50th day was for those who may be in the audience or watching. Rosario was told by the district staffer that “we would not need the 50th day” and “would just move to the long term rate of the $160” for Substitutes with a Bachelor’s Degree or Higher.

When Rosario asked for clarification on the portion of the pay, the district staffer said “we will no longer have Substitutes. When you come teach in our classrooms, you will be a Guest Educator.”

The development cadre will be the 14 people to begin with. The district staffer wants ot add to that group and dream is to have a development pipeline, we will have people, we will have a bench of people to develop to work in our district so we can work, recruit and build, stay with our district and eventually become a teacher. They’re a cadre, they work in our classrooms, they’re our group of people who work in our classrooms, who many want to become a teacher.

The district staffer mentioned about the Cadres that the “dream” is to have them in our schools and potentially recruit them into teaching positions. Each individual Cadre will be housed at a school. There will be 14 people district wide as Cadres. Seven of these will be at secondary schools, one at each school and another to be shared between the Freshman Learning Center at Vero Beach High School and ACE. Another seven would be shared between the Elementary Schools to start, according to the District Employee.

Rosario asked if there are no teachers to cover for that day, what can that teacher do? The staffer said the Cadre would be student centered to help assist teachers with teaching or assist the teacher in the classroom. That would be the purpose of having the Development Cadre. Cadre will be a separate role to the Guest Educator. The Guest Educator makes their own schedule. The Cadre would be a full time, student centered position.

School Board Member Dr. Peggy Jones, Ed.D (District 3 – Vero Beach) had mentioned, talking to Principals the last few years, Substitute teachers had always been a concern. The current pay for substitute teachers, has been paid hourly. Dr. Moore had answered at the secondary schools, it has been a percentage of their salary. Dr. Jones said she “loved” that the full time Cadre positions that would be at the secondary schools. She asked if the Cadres would receive benefits. The school staffer replied that they would receive benefits. Dr. Jones had asked for clarification about the Substitute teachers pay.

Dr. Jones said “there won’t be a day where the Cadre wouldn’t be used at the high schools in the County. Dr. Jones mentioned the stress on principals to find substitutes at 6 AM before school starts that day, to ensure the classes are covered.

Dr. Jones was previously Principal of Sebastian River High School.

School Board Member and former Indian River Shores Mayor Brian Barefoot (District 5 – Indian River Shores), said during the workshop regarding the Cadre position that he “certainly supports whatever it takes to make the position as attractive as possible.” Barefoot had asked if the position would be apart of the Teachers Union or have the option to be. He wanted to know what involvement, if any, would the union would have structuring this. Dr. Moore told Barefoot under the current structure, they are not apart of the teacher’s union.

Barefoot then told a story saying “it’s interesting (just as an aside), you talk about Guest Educators, this became an issue, this high school in Vermont that I’m on the board of, we run it like an independent school, even though it is a public high school there. They’re actually called adjuncts, much like the Universities, Colleges. And it was to the point where it was viewed by the regular teachers as suggesting that they were even at a higher, just based on title alone. It’s interesting how titles matter and how people are perceived in their community by what you call them.” Someone then made a joke saying “we call them saints.” Barefoot then replied “yeah I think we can call all teachers saints these days.”

Barenborg then said it was “awesome” what had been proposed during the Superintendent’s Workshop, pointing back to her days as a Substitute Teacher. She thanked January for attending the Superintendent’s Workshop as she was explaining what it is like being a Substitute teacher. Barenborg said as a Substitute, you find your comfort level and which school you are comfortable in. Barenborg said it’s easier to be a Guest Educator when the kids “know what your expectations are.” She mentioned it’s important to have “what your bag of tricks are” as she found the kids will “test” the Guest Educator.

Barenborg mentioned “if you don’t have those bag of tricks, you’re at the mercy of the kids.” She said it will be “very helpful” to have the new Guest Educator and Cadre when the “5 AM phone call” would come to her when she was a Principal at a High School in Fort Pierce, figuring out how certain classes would be covered. Barenborg mentioned the school she was at was a failing school she had been working to “reform” and had a lot of figuring out how to cover for absent teachers.

Barenborg mentioned how having these new positions help to assure teachers that, if they are out for one day, they will know who is covering for them. The kids will be able to get to know the person that will be covering for their teacher. She also said regarding the Substitute Teacher/Guest Educator pay that “it’s about time we increased this pay, it’s pitiful.” She appreciated “the award that would be given” for “the work they’ve been doing.” She pointed out the fact that SDIRC is competing with surrounding school districts for Substitutes/Guest Educators.

Barenborg called the changes good for the kids as they need consistency. She would point to when her kid told her their was a Substitute, she would think “how many videos did you watch” today in class. She pointed to how back when her daughter was in school, how on Fridays there was always a Spelling Bee and videos. She appreciated that this was being done for the kids and “what we need to think about on this at the most.”

Rosario mentioned some suggestions that came from January Lloyd. It was suggested to make a special rate for retired teachers. Rosario said with the salary increase in general for Substitute teachers/Guest Educators, that could be enough enticing for retired teachers to come in and teacher.

Another suggestion was to create an advertising campaign. Rosario had said “just like there was an advertising campaign for bus drivers, once everything is solidified, we can begin recruiting Guest Educators moving forward and maybe a bonus program for guest educators for how much they sub moving forward.”

Rosario also said as other board members were talking, was concerned that the teachers were going to make less than the Guest Educators based off some math she did. Dr. Moore, after listen to Rosario, corrected Rosario’s math to the correct numbers. Dr. Moore then deferred to Chief Financial Officer, Ronald A. Fagan to ensure he had the accurate numbers. CFO Fagan provided more accurate numbers than what Dr. Moore had provided.

Dr. Moore then said “just to save our Union President an email; the teachers would (obviously) be at a higher compensation than the Guest Educator. Whether is a full time Cadre individual, which we’re still working those number, as you noticed, we didn’t provide those numbers on that because we have to get the blessing of our Chief Financial Officer and it does not include the benefits as well. Benefits we charge at 28%; so it’s significant.”.

Rosario expressed her support for the positions, explaining how variable the teacher absense rate can be at schools and the effects it has on students in the classroom. She thanked the district staff member for bring the item to the meeting that day.

Indian River News would like to know what your thoughts are on renaming Substitute Teachers as Guest Teachers and the creation of the Cadre position in SDIRC Schools. You can let us know by emailing us at indianrivernews@protonmail.com and we will run those as a Letter to the Editor, per approval of Indian River News. Please note that only one Letter to the Editor (which would contain one or more response(s)) may be ran from this call to action.

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