Schools struggling with shortage of substitute teachers

Sep 23, 2015 By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

BOCES to offer certification classes in October

Local school districts are having trouble finding enough substitute teachers. In response, Fremont County Board of Cooperative Education Services is offering weekend classes to help the issue.

Fremont County School District 25 superintendent Terry Snyder said his district has seen a shortage of substitutes for about three years.

Good substitutes are invaluable because they continue students' education when the regular teacher is absent, he said.

When a school cannot find a substitute teacher for a class, other teachers cover the class during their planning periods or the school's principal steps in, Snyder said.

"When you're doing that, you're taking people away from their assignments," he said.

Certification

Continuing education requirements have contributed to the sub shortage, said Kristen Benson, BOCES career and technical director. A high school diploma and a 24-hour class are necessary to become certified as a substitute teacher in Wyoming, she said.

To help with the shortage, BOCES is offering a class that fully certifies people to substitute teach after four days of instruction. The class meets Oct. 2, Oct. 3, Oct. 9 and Oct. 10. The class costs $150 and is to be held at BOCES's office in Riverton.

The class opens up opportunities at many school districts, Benson said.

"Fremont County's so widespread, 9,000 square miles, some of the farther schools out even within the county are struggling not only getting substitutes but making sure their substitutes are keeping up with their certification," Benson said.

Every five years, a certified sub must complete five Professional Teaching Standards Board credits, amounting to 70 hours of workshops.

Several years ago, many local subs did not meet the continuing education requirements and lost their certifications, Benson said.

"Over 50 percent of Fremont County substitutes lost their licenses because they forgot about doing their re-certification," she said.

BOCES is also seeking to address that problem by offering a seven-hour class on teaching difficult students Oct. 8 in Riverton. The class counts for half a credit and is open to substitute and regular teachers.

"The last couple years there's been a huge, huge struggle on finding substitutes," Benson said. "That's what caused me, myself, to look into it with PTSB to start teaching some of those re-certification classes."

Health insurance

A provision of the Affordable Care Act added to the problem for District 25. The act in 2015 started requiring school districts to provide health insurance to teachers who retired from full-time work but continued to substitute teach, Snyder said.

"So that's now a financial burden on the district," he said.

If employees took a 26-week break from working for the district before returning as a sub, however, the district would not have to pay for health insurance. As a result, the district adopted a policy in January that requires retiring teachers to wait 26 weeks before starting to substitute teach, Snyder said.

Benson hopes eventually to teach certification and re-certification classes online to reach people all over the state. Usually BOCES has 10 to 15 people in its courses, but it always has space for up to 45 people.

For more information about BOCES's programs, visit www.fcboces.org or call 856-2028.