Gahanna-Jefferson, New Albany-Plain Local finding ways to fill substitute shortages

·5 min read
New Albany High School freshman Anthony Twinam is served by staff member Robert Lynch at the middle/high school cafeteria. New Albany-Plain Local Schools and Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools continue to experience shortages for substitute positions, including food service.
New Albany High School freshman Anthony Twinam is served by staff member Robert Lynch at the middle/high school cafeteria. New Albany-Plain Local Schools and Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools continue to experience shortages for substitute positions, including food service.

Substitutes are in high demand in Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools and New Albany-Plain Local Schools, as staffing shortages linger.

Shea Reed, director of human resources at Gahanna-Jefferson, said substitutes are needed in every area, especially teachers, bus drivers and aides.

Patrick Gallaway, New Albany-Plan Local communications director, said the district has been fully staffed, but it’s substitutes who are in need.

“(We’re) continuing to experience a shortage of subs for all positions – teachers, custodians, food service, bus drivers and cafeteria/playground aides,” he said. “We have experienced intermittent days when staffing is low due to illness, but we have been and are still able to cover internally, including using teachers during their planning time, administrators and subs as available.”

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Reed said the number of needed substitutes varies greatly from day to day, but on average, she said, the district needs about 120 subs per day.

Gallaway didn’t provide specific numbers, noting that the need fluctuates.

“The pandemic has definitely increased our need for subs,” Reed said. “The difference I see with absences is that before, when someone had an illness, they might not feel well for a day. COVID forces us to quarantine. To me, that has been a huge impact on the subs we needed. Those sick-time absences were a day or two. Some people without symptoms may be quarantined 10 days.”

She said some people are extremely dedicated and might have come to work if they had the sniffles.

“Now they get a test and stay home,” Reed said. “It affects people. On top of that, with the sub shortage, it’s nearly impossible.”

Joe Weitz, policy and communications coordinator for the Educational Service Center of Central Ohio, said 28 districts and/or private schools currently are participating in its substitute consortium, including G-J and New Albany-Plain Local.

“In December 2019, we had around 3,300 active subs in our consortium, and in December 2020 we had 2,200 active subs,” he said.

The ESC currently has about 2,500 substitute staff members, including teachers and other substitute staff, in its active pool.

“The need has been fairly consistent throughout the pandemic,” Weitz said.

Reviewing numbers from December 2021, on average, approximately 51% of the ESC active substitute staff (teachers and nonteaching) took an assignment on any given day that month, he said.

Gallaway said substitute pay was increased for New Albany-Plain Local from a starting rate of $100 per day last academic year to $150 beginning in September 2021.

Gahanna-Jefferson increased its daily sub rate Aug. 26, 2021, from $115 to $125, according to Judy Hengstebeck, communications coordinator.

Reed said one of the biggest strategies the district has implemented in years past is to allow subs to be a building sub.

“A building sub is dedicated to Gahanna only, and this year we increased the building sub pay to $150 per day,” Reed said. “Building subs have helped.”

She said a building sub is assigned to a home base, such as Chapelfield Elementary School.

“That person would know to report to Chapelfield, and if Chapelfield didn’t have a need, we might send the sub to Royal Manor. Now there are holes in a building every single day. They’re always staying in their home school.”

Reed said every middle and elementary school has at least two building subs. The high school has eight, and that still isn’t enough.

“Our building principals are in our classrooms almost every day (covering for teachers), and our special-ed director has been filling in,” she said.

Reed said the job market is tough everywhere, and education isn’t the only place seeing staffing shortages.

“Sub pay isn’t great even though we increased their rate,” she said. “Subs don’t get benefits. While these positions used to be very sought out and coveted because other jobs raised pay, it’s taking away from that pool of workers we normally have. We keep trying to come up with creative ways to stabilize the workforce.”

Gallaway said New Albany-Plain Local completes market analyses for wages at least every other year and believes that in the long term, wages and benefits packages are competitive and fiscally responsible to the district’s taxpayers.

He said the district also did direct outreach to a variety of organizations and parents to increase the sub pool for such classified positions as cafeteria aides.

Reed said G-J’s transportation staff have worked tirelessly to make sure the staffing level was above what was needed, knowing some would leave or get sick.

She said staffing shortages in transportation have forced other central Ohio districts to close.

“We haven’t had to do that because of the hard work of that department,” she said.

G-J currently employs 64 bus drivers and has eight open positions.

The starting pay for drivers was raised to $23 per hour in August for the start of the 2021-22 school year, Hengstebeck said.

The pay previously started at $18 per hour.

Reed said G-J intends to focus on human-resources support for the classified staff so new employees will have a really good start to prepare them for the roles they’re going into.

“We haven’t focused as much on classified, and that’s where we’ve suffered in the job market, as well,” she said.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla

This article originally appeared on ThisWeek: Gahanna-Jefferson, New Albany-Plain Local finding ways to fill substitute shortages

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