Issues with the Sub System

How many times has your teacher been absent and not replaced by a proper substitute? Many students at Santa Rosa High School cannot keep count of the number of times such an issue has occurred. With the extreme need for substitute teachers, one would assume that, in order to improve the problem, the Sonoma County Office of Education (SCOE) would put into place a different system that makes it easier for individuals to become substitute teachers. Surprisingly, however, this is not the case.

Becoming a substitute teacher for the Santa Rosa City Schools District is quite difficult, which is understandable, considering that the individuals wishing to substitute must be guaranteed to have a safe background. But what if the individual is already known to have a safe background? Jessie Kroeck, a substitute teacher and retired SRHS English teacher, explained that even for someone who formerly taught in the district, the process to become a substitute is ludicrously lengthy. “Their requirements are numerous. If an applicant doesn’t have a credential, they are also required to complete additional steps—one is to take a competency test. If you have a credential you don’t have to take the test, but you have other requirements,” said Kroeck.

According to Kroeck, among these requirements are attending an orientation; filling out a packet of documents; getting a tuberculosis vaccination, if needed; watching three one-hour videos on mandated reporting, sexual harassment and more; having fingerprints taken; getting a physical and attending another meeting at the SCOE with an employee to go over everything. Following these steps, an individual who desires to be a substitute must go to each district where they would like to work and fill out more paperwork for their payroll.

Many individuals who want to be substitutes are exhausted by this process. “The process is less cumbersome the second year, but if I hadn’t wanted to help teachers or be with kids as much as I did, I probably wouldn’t have bothered with the rigmarole,” said Kroeck. 

Such a system can cause many willing individuals to turn away from the jobs that SRHS so desperately needs to be filled. Thus, teachers with classes to teach and assignments to grade end up having to substitute in empty classes that lack a proper substitute during their prep period. Among these teachers is Megan Whyte, who teaches English at SRHS. “What happens when we can’t get subs is that it falls on other teachers and administrators to substitute during their prep periods, when we’re supposed to be creating curriculum and grading papers and preparing for our classes and making lessons, and it’s inconvenient, to say the least,” said Whyte. “Our work needs to get done somehow, and we usually get a lot of it done during our preps.” If teachers cannot get their work done, then how can students learn what they are supposed to learn?

Whyte added, however, that when teachers substitute for other classes during their prep periods, they are compensated. “The district is actually spending more money paying teachers to sub on their preps than they would if they just got a substitute in the classroom,” said Whyte.

Santa Rosa High School and other schools in the Santa Rosa City Schools District are in desperate need of substitute teachers; according to Kroeck, as many as thirty substitute teachers were requested on a Monday towards the beginning of the second quarter. In order to solve this problem, the SCOE must update the lengthy process that individuals must endure to become substitute teachers. Kroeck proposed several solutions, saying, “As a recently retired teacher, I don’t think credentialed teachers need to have physicals nor fingerprints taken, since the prints are still on file with the state.” When these positions are not filled by substitutes, teachers and administrators have to fill them instead, which overwhelms teachers and therefore impacts students. If the SCOE does not revise this process and the District continues to lack substitute teachers, then thousands of students who are just trying to get an education will have to pay the price.

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