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Substitute teachers are in demand

| Sunday, Dec. 18, 2005

School districts constantly work to have enough substitute teachers, especially in high school math and sciences.

"You can never have enough substitute teachers," said Todd O'Shell, spokesman for South Butler County School District. "That's just a fact of life in every school district."

O'Shell said the district has a good pool of substitutes on stand-by. Still, it can be difficult to fill certain areas, such as high school math and sciences.

Of the 84 subs on Deer Lakes School District's list, probably about three-fourths are elementary subs, leaving the higher grades struggling, said Superintendent Mark King.

"I think a lot of people like working with the elementary and try to work their career there," King said.

For example, the district could get more than 400 applications for an opening in an elementary school, but a position for a high school English teacher might draw only 45 applications.

Kiski Area has a similar problem finding certified teachers willing to fill in at the high school.

"And you're competing with neighboring school districts," said assistant superintendent James Dick. "That person could be on three or four sub lists."

Some educators see the problem getting worse.

"In all of the reports I've read, there's going to be a teacher shortage in five to 10 years. If that's just regular teachers, then what about substitutes?" said James Budzilek, superintendent for Leechburg Area School District.

Some districts turn to programs such as Smart Start to certify professionals who can step in as temporary teachers.

Not all subs are awakened at 5 a.m. with a telephone call asking them to come to class. Several districts have started using the Web-based Aesop system, which lists absences in advance -- when they're known -- and allows subs to list when they're free to cover. It also allows subs to be contacted by phone or e-mail automatically when there's a sudden absence.

Valerie McGee loves the system.

"It's very convenient, more so than a phone call," said McGee, who has been a substitute for almost two years in South Butler.

She's one of many certified substitutes who are recent college graduates trying to get the experience to land a full-time job. McGee, who graduated from California University in 2003, is certified for elementary and middle school teaching, but her goal is to be a full-time elementary school teacher.

"It's difficult to get a teaching job, so the best experience would be to sub and get more experience teaching in the field," she said.

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