(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Substitute teachers have been in short supply in St. Joseph, but the school district has a new business partner aiming to fill that gap.
The St. Joseph School District's Board of Education has signed with EDUStaff- an educational staff company based in Michigan, operating in nine states.
In a press release, the SJSD said, "With this new relationship, EDUStaff will manage all aspects of finding substitute teachers, substitute paraprofessionals, and substitute secretaries, and will take over the job of filling absences for the school district of nearly 12,000 students. EDUStaff will advertise, recruit, screen, train, hire, place, pay, manage and verify credentials for each substitute employee."
Dr. Doug Van Zyl, SJSD Superintendent, reports there's been a shortage of substitute teachers in St. Joseph for years.
“We’ve had a declining number of people in our pool ever since I’ve gotten here and even before that,” said Dr. Doug Van Zyl, SJSD Superintendent.
To make a bad problem worse, COVID-19 hit.
What once used to be a pool of 400-500 substitutes has quickly dried into a short list of 150-200 people.
“One of the biggest catalysts for why people are not wanting to substitute teach is health and safety. Many of our substitute educators are retired educators who have come back to substitute in the classroom and they’re in the high risk category,” said J. Eric Simmons, President of St. Joseph's National Education Association.
Dr. Van Zyl said when the district falls short on subs for the school day, "then we either have to pull other staff out of their positions to help cover classrooms or sometimes we have to not have a staff member assigned to that and some of the kids get divided out and that causes some issues too.”
The lack of staffing is what closed down Ellison Elementary in the first week of December as staff members tested positive for COVID-19.
To try and resolve the substitute shortage, EDUStaff is recruiting for the district.
“We really like to shake every tree, make sure we turn over every rock to make sure we find those qualified individuals to get into the classroom,” said Raymond Massey II, National Development Team Director for EDUStaff.
Massey II said EDUStaff is searching for substitutes that love children and have a passion for their community.
“So, we go to places like churches, youth groups, boys and girls clubs, Goodwill job spot, K-12 job spot, state employment agencies. We’re really going everywhere we can to actually find individuals to feel those voids in the classroom," said Massey II.
EDUStaff has hired a full-time St. Joseph native to "do nothing but recruiting," said Dr. Van Zyl.
With more reason to call out sick this year due to the pandemic, the district said substitute teachers are critical this year.
“They’re vital. We needed them before COVID and we’re going to need them after,” said Dr. Van Zyl.
To apply to become a substitute teacher, click here or call at 877-974-6338 with questions.