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Charles City School District discusses solutions to substitute teacher shortage

By James Grob, [email protected]

Charles City Middle School Assistant Principal Dana Sullivan told the Charles City School District Board of Directors Monday that when teachers are absent, more than one-third of their classes this year have not been covered by a certified teacher.

Sullivan said that most recent data shows that there have been more than 1,200 staff absences since the beginning of the school year, and 37% have been “uncovered,” that is, situations where there wasn’t a certified teacher that picked up the absent teacher’s classes.

“That isn’t trending any differently than any other year,” Sullivan said. “What’s trending differently is the sub (substitute teacher) shortage.”

As it is now, depending on the school, administrators fill in for absent teachers and the high school has a system where teachers can fill in for absent teachers during their daily prep period, Sullivan explained.

“Usually our substitutes are made up of a lot of retired teachers who are willing to come back,” Sullivan said. “Obviously, for health concerns and their own personal reasons we just don’t have the bank of people that we used to.”

One possible solution the school district is considering is to have an extra substitute teacher on hand in each building at all times.

“What we would like to do, for each of the four schools, is to have a long-term sub, hired for that building,” Sullivan said. “Every day they would come in, and their assignment would change depending on which teacher is gone each day. That would give us one more certified educator each day at each school.”

Board member David Schrodt wondered if the extra substitute teacher on hand at each school could be a full-time position, with full pay and benefits.

Superintendent Mike Fisher said that hiring four additional full-time employees would likely be cost prohibitive.

Also Monday, the board approved a five-year facilities strategic plan as presented by Director of Operations Jerry Mitchell. For 2022-23, Mitchell estimated $482,000 for projects and purchases and $310,340 for annual expense allowances — a total $792,340. The board approved a facilities budget of $861,015 for 2022-23, $68,675 over Mitchell’s estimates.

Included in the projects and purchases for 2022-23 are a new passenger bus ($110,000), a new Suburban ($48,000) and roofing on Washington Elementary School ($140,000).

The board also approved for Mitchell to purchase additional weight room flooring at a cost of $14,000.

Mitchell also outlined plans for the sections of the North Grand Building that will still be owned and occupied by the school district apart from the older section that is being developed for private apartments.

Mitchell explained that the building will need more than $1 million worth of work.

He said the decision has been made to hire an architect and construction manager for the project, and the board will discuss the specifics and vote on the project at a later date.

Mitchell also shared with the board plans for a multi-purpose space in the North Grand Building, in the area which once was the swimming pool. He said there are plans to fill in the pool and turn the space into an area that can be both a gym and a fine arts area.

Also Monday evening, Fisher updated the community and board on Charles City’s enrollment statistics. After increasing by more than 60 students over the last three years, the Charles City School District saw a decrease in enrollment for the 2021-22 school year, of about nine students. Official certified enrollment this year is 1554.48, down 8.62 from last year’s 1563.1.

The board also::
— Approved the robotics team to seek sponsorship for their upcoming competitions. The robotics team is coached by industrial tech teacher Jesse White. Fourteen high school students are involved in robotics.
— Approved director of choral activities Derek Sturtevant to take a vocal jazz trip to Moorhead, Minnesota and Fargo, North Dakota, Feb. 11-12. Vocal music students would be able to perform alongside students from other school districts.
— Approved the resignation of Cassidy Mougy, full time CCMS para-educator, effective Dec. 31.
— Approved the resignation of Shelby Crane, full time Washington para-educator, effective Jan. 3.
— Approved the resignation of Bonnie Lore, bus driver, effective Dec. 10.
— Approved the appointment of Jeff Gelner, bus driver, at a wage of $17.25 per hour, effective Jan. 11.
— Approved the appointment of Teta Ross, Washington custodian, at a wage of $17.07 per hour, effective Jan. 11.
— Approved the appointment of Ruthmarie Carter, full time CCMS para-educator, at a wage of $15.39 per hour, effective Jan. 18.
— Approved the appointment of Nathan Shultz, vocal jazz assistant, at a wage of $14 per hour, effective Jan. 11.
— Heard a mission and vision presentation from CCMS principal Joe Taylor.

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