Substitute Teachers

Is there a substitute teacher crisis on our hands in metro Atlanta?  The DeKalb Schools FY2015 Sub-Finder Report indicated that a substitute teacher was found only 65% of the time they were requested.  Find the sub fill rate for your elementary school below.  I asked Dr. Steven Green, our new superintendent, if his staff could shed some light on substitute teaching in DeKalb.

Dr. Tekshia Ward-Smith is the Chief Human Resources Officer and has been with DeKalb Schools for almost 25 years. She earned an Ed.S from Jacksonville State University in 1998 and an Ed.D from Argosy University in 2005.
Dr. Ward-Smith also played Forward for the University of Virginia where the Cavaliers’ appearance in the 1990 NCAA Final Four was the first in the history of the Virginia women’s basketball program.
Question: How much do subs get paid? Do subs get any other benefits?
Dr. Ward-Smith: Day to day substitute teachers are paid $85 per day.  There are no other benefits provided for sub teachers.
Question: What qualifies as a long term sub and how does their pay and benefits differ from short term subs?
Dr. Ward-Smith: Retired or Certified teachers who serve as a long term substitute are paid $95 per day.  In 95% of the cases, long term subs are retired certified teachers. We specifically target retired educators to serve in long term positions. In about 5% of the cases day- to-day substitutes will cover a long term position.
Question: When teachers are absent, our SubFinder system automates teacher absence reporting and substitute teacher placement.
Dr. Ward-Smith: Please note that we are moving to a new, better and improved system in January. The challenges with the Subfinder system could not be remedied after close to 18 months of troubleshooting with the vendor. Although the Subfinder System was one source for obtaining sub coverage it is not the only source.
Question: When a teacher is absent and SubFinder cannot find a sub, what happens to the class with an absent teacher?
Dr. Ward-Smith: Coverage from other certified personnel, Coverage from paraprofessionals, Merging of the classes.
Question: What is the teacher/active subs ratio?
Dr. Ward-Smith: 6300 Certified teachers & 1,193 Active Subs (Active subs who worked at least 10 times per year (1 day per month) 856).
Question: What challenges are we facing with building up an active subs pool?
Dr. Ward-Smith: Please see the Actions To Improve Sub Services. Additionally, the 16 day limit- which will be modified for FY2016.
Question: The SubFinder report says only 31,717 sub requests were filled for 49,523 absences in Aug – April of FY2015. That is a 64% fill rate. Is that accurate? What is an acceptable fill rate?
Dr. Ward-Smith: It is with a strong reservation that I provide this report due to the number of challenges we have had with the Subfinder System. Without manually counting more than 130 sites on a daily basis to monitor to Districts fill rate, I cannot verify accuracy of the report. This system server crashes and data backup is compromised. Please note that next year we will be using AESOP to manage our substitute system.
The SubFinder data is “only” a report. It is important to note that the Subfinder system is only one method of requesting substitute teachers. The Subfinder fill rates are only calculated on jobs that are actually placed in the system. Often times, principals/teachers do not have the opportunity to place the absence into Subfinder and will have to call the sub directly. This skews the overall numbers as reported by Subfinder. With the goal of providing you with a complete picture of failed to fill rates, Human Resource recommends the inclusion of additional data to identify all uncovered absences; which will cost additional time and effort.
Please note that the fill rate was closer to 74% and even then this is not an acceptable fill rate. An acceptable fill rate would be 90% or better.
Question: How did we only have a 64% sub fill rate?
Dr. Ward-Smith: Once again the fill rate was closer to 75%. Please know that the bigger issue is staff attendance and finding ways to encourage great attendance. Better attendance= Reduced need for substitute employees
Question: What are we doing to address the fill rate for next year?
Dr. Ward-Smith: The Division of Human Resources is working diligently to improve our processes and procedures regarding Substitute teachers. Last school year, the District hosted a mandatory Substitute Appreciation and Training was held for all Substitute teachers. The purpose of this training was to ascertain why Substitute teachers were not accepting jobs, recognize them for their hard work and dedication, and to provide strategies for classroom success.
Please review the Actions To Improve Sub Services which reference the results of a Pre-meeting Survey, common themes from a Post Meeting Question and Answer Session, and Recommendations from Veteran Principals that may aid in Securing Substitutes.
1. New Substitute System – The Division of Human Resources will use a new system as the Subfinder System has run its course and upgrades do not meet the needs of the District. Therefore, a new Substitute system will be implemented in January 2016.
2. We hired 200 additional subs by the end of the 2014-2015 school year. Prior to school opening we will hire an additional 150-200 Additional Substitute Teachers
3. Substitute Teacher Job Fair – The Division of Human Resources held a Substitute Teacher Job Fair. Each school hosted a local fair on February 18, 2015. Principals had the opportunity to make a recommendation to Human Resources for Substitutes for their sites. This allowed principals to see Substitutes that are specifically interested in working at their school.
4. Substitute Teacher Ad-Hock Committee- A committee of Teachers, Parents, Administrators and Substitutes met in March to address and develop strategies for securing substitute teachers. Please see the attached document.
5. Attendance Incentives- The Division of Human Resources is working coming up with ideas and ways to provide incentives for Substitutes who accept jobs on a consistent basis, etc.
6. Substitute Preferences- All substitute teachers have been asked to update/select the schools they “prefer” to work. This is called the Substitute Preference List. Once a preference list is created and established by a Substitute, Subfinder will only call the Substitute for the school listed on the Substitute preferred list. All Substitutes have been asked to update their preferences by August 2015.
7. Modify ACA substitute teaching threshold. As opposed to only allowing Subs to work 16 days per month, the limit will be changed to 80 days per semester.
Dekalb Elementary Schools Substitute Teacher Fill Rate

School FILLED TOTAL Fill Rate Percent
Fernbank ES 147 156 94%
Meadowview ES 261 292 89%
Vanderlyn ES 362 410 88%
Smoke Rise ES 332 377 88%
Bouie ES 261 299 87%
Shadow Rock ES 316 363 87%
Evansdale ES 302 350 86%
Cedar Grove ES 203 237 86%
Midvale ES 273 319 86%
Narvie J. Harris ES 366 430 85%
Oak Grove ES 247 292 85%
Chapel Hill ES 320 382 84%
Rowland ES 352 422 83%
Marbut ES 383 460 83%
Rock Chapel ES 325 392 83%
Austin ES 259 317 82%
Browns Mill ES 271 336 81%
Dunwoody ES 282 356 79%
Murphey Candler ES 293 371 79%
Columbia ES 291 371 78%
Panola Way ES 286 366 78%
Snapfinger ES 242 311 78%
Rainbow ES 205 265 77%
Wynbrooke ES 291 378 77%
Briarlake ES 169 226 75%
Henderson Mill ES 224 305 73%
Bob Mathis ES 165 225 73%
Kelley Lake ES 149 204 73%
Jolly ES 221 305 72%
Sagamore Hills ES 255 353 72%
Brockett ES 182 252 72%
Hambrick ES 283 392 72%
Midway ES 319 442 72%
DeKalb ES School of Arts 243 340 71%
Pine Ridge ES 310 435 71%
Clifton ES 142 201 71%
Oakcliff ES 363 517 70%
Kingsley ES 198 285 69%
Pleasantdale ES 285 417 68%
Stone Mill ES 238 349 68%
Avondale ES 197 290 68%
McLendon ES 177 261 68%
Fairington ES 285 425 67%
Flat Rock ES 292 436 67%
Montgomery ES 184 276 67%
Hawthorne ES 157 239 66%
Canby Lane ES 265 404 66%
Oak View ES 419 639 66%
Woodridge ES 156 239 65%
Huntley Hills ES 234 360 65%
Idlewood ES 532 823 65%
Flat Shoals ES 92 143 64%
Toney ES 177 278 64%
Stone Mountain ES 196 313 63%
Eldrige Miller ES 188 302 62%
Redan ES 161 259 62%
Rockbridge ES 186 304 61%
Allgood ES 204 340 60%
Knollwood ES 138 234 59%
Livsey ES 41 71 58%
Briar Vista ES 199 347 57%
Indian Creek ES 367 651 56%
Princeton ES 396 704 56%
Woodward ES 327 583 56%
Cary Reynolds ES 399 718 56%
Stoneview ES 336 608 55%
Dunaire ES 192 355 54%
Laurel Ridge ES 99 189 52%
Ashford Park ES 208 413 50%
Chestnut ES 58 125 46%
Montclair ES 250 544 46%
Dresden ES 282 646 44%
Hightower ES 221 530 42%

6 responses to “Substitute Teachers

  1. So is it 64 or 75%? Again, HR never seems to know!

  2. Don McChesney

    Whether it is 64% or 75% doesn’t matter. Both numbers are unacceptable. Teachers covering classes on their planning periods in high schools is real punishment to the teacher. Splitting students among working teachers in elementary schools is a terrible burden. We can’t get subs because the teaching atmosphere in DeKalb is deplorable. No one wants to be a referee they want to teach. Our schools are poorly staffed from the principal right on down. We now need to find the good folks we have and let them teach while backing them up and jettisoning all the dead wood from our central office down through the schools.
    Dr. Green needs to go work diligently on personnel right away. The next move he needs to make is to get a competent forthright person as a CFO. No more cash shell game moving. Ours system needs to be entirely on accrual so it does not lag 3 months behind reality.

  3. Don’s comments are spot on and much nicer than I would have said. Thank you.
    Dr. Smith’s answers reveal her complete lack of competence. “Please know that the bigger issue is staff attendance and finding ways to encourage great attendance. Better attendance= Reduced need for substitute employees.” Really? Is staff attendance in DeKalb County significantly different from other counties? Is the problem really that teachers are humans with families who occasionally get sick and always have obligations outside of the schoolhouse? I would love to hear her justify that statement. If staff attendance is an issue, what are the root causes? Could it be the culture of the district which does respect or value teachers?
    Staff attendance is NOT a bigger issue than the inability of the HR department to put substitutes in classrooms. It doesn’t matter what the percentage of filled (or unfilled) teacher vacancies is. Stan’s table documents 8,318 times there was not a substitute.
    That is the problem here.

  4. Also, my brother teaches in Rochester, MN. That school district uses Subfinder and he reports it works well. He told me that every once in a blue moon there is an unfilled teacher absence, but it is rare. Additionally, because MN is an union state, when a teacher covers a class during his/her planning period, they are compensated for it.
    Does that happen in DeKalb County?

  5. I think that Don’s and Kirk’s comments hit the point. I’ve been following Human Resource issues at the Dekalb County School System for years and they have only gone downhill. My understanding is that the teacher turnover rate in Dekalb County has consistently far exceeded that of any other Metro-Atlanta county. If this year is like the last several, we will be outsourcing the teacher placement to outside agencies wherein Dekalb County pays a premium, agencies such as that “little house in Chamblee” that became such a point of interest last year. The HR department has gone, in large numbers, to places such as Chicago to recruit teachers while not making a serious effort to recruit within Georgia or neighboring States. There doesn’t seem to be any type of performance appraisal system with measurable goals that can be the basis for identifying performance issues, creating meaningful development programs, or serving as a basis to terminate long-term sub-par performers. When performance does become a serious issue to the extent that it can no longer be tolerated, we seem to just “transfer” the problem within the DCSS rather than dealing with the fundamental issue. From my perspective, that is one of the reasons why we have such a “bloat” in administration. For years, I have been calling for a system that would measure performance, a pay system that would reward excellence while also, at a minimum, not rewarding the lack of performance. Dr. Green should focus like a laser on the people who report directly to him. That is where he can have an immediate impact. The School Board should not allow him to simply “transfer” those he thinks are not doing or cannot do their jobs while replacing with the new hires. I recognize that the School Board is not supposed to “micro-manage”, but the School Board does approve the budget and it needs to place a priority to getting to the 65% budget allocation to the classroom and, by that, I mean to the teachers, principals, and the direct costs of running the classroom. While I am on a roll here, I want to express my deep concerns with the way in which SPLOST has been administered and will actively oppose any future request for any new SPLOST funding until that mess is cleaned up and we don’t do things with that money such as buying administrators new cars.

  6. Christy Westrom

    My complaint lies on the other side of the coin. I’ve been willing and able to sub over the last two years and even with recommendations from two teachers from one of the schools, there never seemed to be an opening at the time I went on the website. Turns out that you can only during a very short window of time and it’s a long process, which is fine, however, if you don’t get chosen, your application gets deleted and you have to go through that whole process again. I saw that there was an Open House for substitute teachers in DeKalb County this past winter so I even called ahead to two of the schools. One said that the principal would not be there but the other said to come by between something like 4:30 and 6:00 pm. When I arrived, no one seemed to know what I was talking about and both the principal and the assistant principal had left and they just advised me to leave my resumé on their assistants’ desk. I did finally receive a call back from another school and even had the principal recommend me. However, then I received a call from the HR department saying they hadn’t received my college transcripts, which I knew I had included, however, I sent them again anyway. I never heard another word. Red tape and frustration.