Schools Try To Lure Teachers To Area During Shortages

A substitute teacher shortage in New York state has forced Jamestown Public Schools to innovate and attract teachers to the area.

Bret Apthorpe, superintendent of Jamestown Public Schools, said the problem of substitute teacher shortages and teacher shortages altogether is present in all schools in across the state.

“Every district I’ve worked with has this problem,”Apthorpe told The Post-Journal.

Apthorpe said Jamestown Public Schools is looking into new ways to attract teachers, specifically substitute teachers. While absenteeism might be seen as an issue, Apthorpe said if teachers are sick, “we want them to stay home.”

Apthorpe said the real problem lies with the shortages. Recently, JPS will go to collegiate teaching programs to attract people to substitute in Jamestown. If they do, The district will guarantee them an interview when an opening for a full-time position is made available.

The superintendent also said the state recently adjusted one of its regulations to accommodate schools having trouble with sick teachers and finding temporary replacements. The state used to allow a non-certified teacher to substitute for 45-days in a row, but now allow those non-certified teachers to substitute for a consecutive 90-day period.

Apthorpe said he was also concerned with the retirement of teachers from the “baby boomer” generation and noted that the shortage would get worse before it gets any better.

David O’Rourke, superintendent of Erie-2 BOCES, acknowledged the struggle with the shortage as well.

“I would agree there is a real shortage of substitute teachers right now for all of our schools,” O’Rourke said.

As for absenteeism, he said “it’s disruptive to continuity of classrooms.”

He said the best solution would be to keep teachers as healthy as possible and noted that the problem stems from a “broader labor market” issue.l

“There is an increasing shortage in certified teachers for teaching positions much less substitutes,” O’Rourke said.

O’Rourke said the state has already been implementing new regulations to combat absenteeism affecting the classroom as well as the substitute shortage. One of the aspects he talked about was allowing peer-professionals or teacher assistants more range when filling in for absent teachers. He also praised the state increasing the amount of days non-certified teachers are allowed to teach consecutively.

O’Rourke also said schools are offering “tier-grade pay” that allows substitutes higher the more days they are at a particular school. In addition to updating the pay scale, schools are also reaching out to retirees to return to teach temporarily.

He said these changes are a way for the state to “recognize the reality of a problem of availability of subs.”