DCPS faces District-wide sub shortage

Mary Harney

While adjusting to various safety measures due to the pandemic, Wilson has suffered from a district-wide lack of substitute teachers, leaving several teachers to work during their free periods.

At least 15 teachers have been affected, according to a list provided by Assistant of Strategy and Logistics Cynthia McFarlin.

School districts around the country are having the same problem, DCPS said in a statement. In an effort to recruit more substitutes, DCPS partnered with local colleges and promoted the opportunities on social media.The district has also increased its total compensation package for long-term substitute teachers. 

The hiring process for subs “has migrated to a virtual platform, including interviews and orientation,” according to the DCPS website, which adds that pay is $120 a day, and $150 a day for “long-term” substitutes. 

DCPS added that the limited number of substitutes was not just a result of the pandemic, but “the positive movement of substitute teachers into more permanent roles.” 

Due to the pandemic, not as many substitutes were required and likely found jobs elsewhere. “Being virtual all last year interrupted and undermined the relationships and routines between subs and schools. Subs weren’t called in nearly as much; surely many found other jobs,” Washington Teacher’s Union representative and history teacher Michele Bollinger wrote in an email.             

Other factors may be involved, too. “While I have no data on this, many subs are older,” she said, “and I imagine some have health concerns,” Bollinger said.
            The problem has been around since before the pandemic, because subs are “not paid much, not sure about benefits and are not protected by a union,” Bollinger said.

“DCPS scaled back efforts to be accountable for schools’ needs relative to subs a few years ago. They told us that they would not fulfill all of a school’s coverage needs,” Bollinger said. “That’s when Wilson admin started to say that we had to cover each other’s classes more regularly that we are expected to honor those requests.”
            She added when teachers fill in to do work normally covered by subs, “it cuts into [their] planning and grading time.” •