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Sub in: Morris Area needs subs

Deb McNally is a retired teacher who is a substitute in the Morris Area School District. McNally likes the flexibility of being a substitute. Rae Yost/Stevens County Times.

On any given school day in the Morris Area School District, a substitute teacher could be in a classroom.

Although the district has a pool of substitutes to fallin, there is a need for more, elementary principal Shane Monson and secondary principal Bill Kehoe said.

"A larger sub pool would be nice," Monson said.

The need for substitute teachers, "really depends on the day," Kehoe said. "We can have as many as 10 (staff members) out..."

On Feb. 26, the elementary school had six teachers out; one was scheduled to be gone on Feb. 27, another two on Feb. 28, three on March 1 and one on March 2, Monson said.

The district needs substitutes when teachers have planned absences for an entire day or part of the day, or unexpected absences, or when they need to leave early because they are an adviser or coach for a student activity. Illness, appointments, staff development training and other factors cause the need for substitutes.

"We can be OK at 6 a.m. but then, a staff member may be ill or have a sick child," Kehoe said.

The state requires substitutes to have teaching licenses but there are provisions for those who do not have teaching degrees. The state has recently approved short-call licenses for individuals with four- year degrees but no teaching license. The license allows those individuals to be substitute teachers.

The elementary substitute list includes retired teachers but some of those aren't available for the entire school year.. "That pool can grow and shrink depending on winter vacations," Monson said.

Kehoe said the district also shares substitutes between the elementary and secondary school. The goal is to try and match a substitute with a subject area. The district wants an English teacher to substitute for an English class, for example.

Yet, finding that teacher to fit the subject isn't always easy for advanced classes such as calculus, Kehoe said.

Teachers have been using computers to record lessons so the students can watch the lesson on their own time and work on the assignment in class with a substitute, Kehoe said.

Wayne Gilman, of Teachers on Call, an organization that works with districts on securing substitute teachers and other staff members in the district, said Morris Area is not the only district in the state that needs a larger pool of substitute teachers. Gilman gave a presentation to the Morris Area School Board on Feb. 20. The district is exploring options to help with its need for more substitute teachers and invited Teachers on Call to make a presentation.

Gilman said there are several reasons why districts are having problems finding substitute teachers. Fewer students are going into education in college and pay is one reason, Gilman said. Districts have needed to increase staff professional development days which increases the need for substitute teachers and unemployment is low in state so potential substitutes may have other jobs.

The Morris Area District uses the Absence Management system, formerly AESOP, to record when a substitute is needed and to let potential substitutes know of the need.

When a substitute teacher is needed in the Morris Area District, the teacher makes the request in the Absence Management system through a computer. Substitute teachers use the system to review substitute positions and accept or reject positions through the system.

When a substitute is needed just a few hours before school starts or unexpectedly during the day, the campus office staff contacts potential substitutes.

Monson and Kehoe will be subsitute teachers when needed.

Kehoe said although he enjoys getting into the classroom, when he substitutes he's not doing other principal work.

"I've gone into the classroom and taught because we've been short but it's the last resort for me. I need to do other things," Monson said.

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