Substitute teacher shortage affecting local schools

generic otsego classroom


WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) -– Local school administrators say a substitute teacher shortage is affecting several West Michigan schools.

Bill Fetterhoff, the superintendent of Godwin Heights Public Schools, said they could only fill about 75 percent of the district’s openings for substitutes during the 2015-2016 school year.

“We’ve had administrators in the classroom [due to the shortage of substitutes],” Fetterhoff explained. “We’ve tried to consolidate classes.”

EDUStaff works with more than 30 Michigan school districts. The agency provides trained substitutes as part of its services.

“There are days when we cannot fill every position in a school,” said EDUStaff President Clark Galloway.

Galloway says he began seeing a declining substitute pool about five years ago.

“It is affecting education,” Galloway said. “I call it the ‘scramble plan.’”

Superintendent Fetterhoff said West Michigan, especially Kent and Ottawa counties, have low unemployment rates and the competitive job market is making it hard to attract new substitutes.

Many first-year teachers would have started their careers as subs years ago, but there’s a high demand for teachers locally. That demand has taken those potential candidates out of the mix.

Fetterhoff recalled situations that school officials had to pull teachers and substitutes from their prep hour to teach another class.

“It’s not a situation where we can put 24 kids on hold. They need to have a qualified individual in there to move forward for the day,” said Fetterhoff.

They also have had staffing scenarios that resulted in calling teachers back from conferences to cover vacancies, which is an expensive option because of teacher contracts.

“It’s been kind of a lose-lose situation for us. [It’s] very difficult in this economy,” said Fetterhoff.

Godwin Heights Public Schools has a “premiere substitute” program that offers special benefits to guaranteed subs.

The district, as well as others, has looked for other incentive programs to help with the shortage. One discussion Fetterhoff’s district has thrown out would have rewards for teachers who take fewer days off.

“It’s not just West Michigan. It’s not just Michigan. This is a national concern,” said Galloway.

EDUStaff is looking for new substitute candidates. To apply, call EDUStaff at 877.974.6338 or go to www.edustaff.org.