CHPS Tackles sub issue

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In the Columbia Heights Public Schools district, finding a substitute teacher to take over a class is a challenge, especially on short notice. This makes it even more difficult to find substitutes that are experienced in specific subjects like math, science, art and more. 

When students walk into a classroom, they usually expect to see their normal teacher, but on occasion, the teacher may take a sick day or have an emergency that must be attended to. When a substitute teacher does show up, students should still be able to get help for the class they are in. That, however, is rarely the case.

“The second that substitute teacher comes through the door unprepared, I am already losing parts of a valuable education,” Dennis Johnson (12) said. “Since I am missing said education, I’m also losing a chance to gain knowledge that could prove useful later on.” 

Substitute teachers also have a hard time with scheduling and often feel rushed. 

“Daily substitutes are often paid low wages, have no job security or even predictability from day-to-day and no benefits,” said Edina High School teacher Rob Garner in an interview with the Star Tribune. “No one can make a living with these realities, and as the economy improves, there are many more sustainable positions for people. Being a sub just can’t compete with that.” 

Simply put, there are other job opportunities out there with significantly better pay and more time for employees to prepare themselves.

“Columbia Heights can’t afford that high of a wage for substitutes because of the size of our district and the budget we have,” Mr. Daniel Honigs, President of the CHPS Teachers’ Union in CHPS, said. “There are also many districts around us with better wages and [aren’t] too far away from the substitute’s desired location.” 

 Even if the district had the funds to pay higher wages for substitute teachers, doing this could lead to the district cutting a program or a few teachers to compensate.  

The shortage of substitute teachers in CHPS sometimes causes confusion and frustration in classrooms. When substitutes are called in, the process is often rushed, and the sub is often not as knowledgeable in a specific subject as they should be. Technology can be a huge help when teaching a lesson without a teacher, but even then it is still a struggle. If no substitutes take the job, then other teachers have to give up their prep hours to fill in, which sets them back on preparation for their own classes.

 “If I’m teaching another class, I’m not able to help them out as much as I can, which hurts their learning especially when they need help,” CHHS English teacher Ms. Michelle Douglas said. 

Technology can be a huge help when teaching a lesson without a teacher, but even then, it is still difficult. In many cases, subs do not have access to the digital assignments, links or readings that instructors post for their students on Google Classroom or Schoology when they are absent, so they are unable to adequately prepare for teaching the class the materials.

Fortunately, it was just announced that CHHS will be sharing a newly hired full-time in-building sub with Columbia Academy. This is the first in-building sub for the district. As a part of his job, Zach Hollman will be paid as a regular teacher except he will change classrooms every day filling in for the teachers who could not make it to school that day. The Human Resources department has also posted an opening for an elementary in-building sub. 

With a new in-building sub in the district, fewer teachers will need to be rushed into classrooms at the last minute. While more in-building subs or better wages for outside subs would help the district, it is a start in the right direction.