School substitutes on software

Backup teachers get work assignments via computer programs

Backup teachers get work assignments via computer programs

December 08, 2003|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

When area school districts need backup teachers - quickly - their software goes to work.

Computer programs go through databases, automatically calling each substitute teacher in the pool until someone is available.

The Washington County Board of Education's program stops calling candidates at 10 p.m. It resumes at 6 a.m. the next day, said Rick Gehrman, whose duties as supervisor for human resources include hiring substitute teachers.

Donna Hill, a frequent sub at North Hagerstown High School, said she gets a few early-morning calls for work that day. But she's more likely to get a late-afternoon call for a job the next day.

"If the phone rings at 5 p.m.," when the computer system starts its evening calls, she said, "I know what it is."


Gehrman and two other Tri-State administrators said the need for substitute teachers fluctuates depending on the time of year, the weather and other factors.

"We have 800 subs in our bank and we are still hiring," Gehrman said.

At the end of the year, when teachers use accumulated leave time, "we run into a shortage," said John Prohaska, the director of human resources in the Jefferson County, W.Va., school district.

The Chambersburg (Pa.) Area School District needs backup teachers during flu season, on the first nice day after a cold spell and on districtwide professional training days, said Lynn Lerew, director of human resources.

The Chambersburg district has about 530 permanent teachers and about 120 substitute teachers from which to choose, he said.

"We do sometimes run out of substitutes," he said.

In a pinch, Jefferson County teachers may accept part of an absent teacher's class, as long as it doesn't create a student-teacher ratio higher than the state allows, Prohaska said.

Chambersburg principals might pull art, gym or music teachers into classroom duty if they run out of subs, Lerew said.

Each of the three states has different requirements for hiring substitute teachers.

Substitutes in Pennsylvania must have a bachelor's degree and be certified in the subject they teach.

West Virginia requires a bachelor's degree and minimum grade point average of 2.0.

In Maryland, though, each school district, not the state, sets the guidelines.

"It has always been a local decision," Department of Education spokesman Bill Rheinhard said. "We haven't stepped in."

Washington County groups substitute teachers into three categories: Those with a college degree and teaching certification; those with a bachelor's degree; and those with a high school diploma or two-year college degree.

If all other things are equal - such as experience and expertise - the preference is A-list subs, then B-list, then C-list, Gehrman said.

A-list subs receive $75 per day. B-list subs receive $66 per day. C-list subs receive $59 per day.

Gehrman said someone who works more than 10 days at a time is considered a long-term substitute teacher. The pay is $95 per day.

Chambersburg started using SubFinder, its database program, in 1997, Lerew said.

Employees call the system with a touch-tone phone or log on to the Internet to report when they will be absent, according to the Web site for CRS Inc., which produces SubFinder.

Teachers may record special instructions.

Substitute teachers accept jobs the same way. Or, if they turn down an offer, they press codes to explain why (sickness, car problems, child care, family emergency).

Washington County recently started a password-protected Web site to supplement its own program, Substitute Employee Management System Advantage, which is produced by eSchool Solutions.

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