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Schools struggle to sign suitable subs

There're just not enough substitute teachers to go around these days.

In the Salt Lake City School District, 17 days went by without enough substitutes for absent teachers since July, says a district report presented Tuesday to the Salt Lake City Board of Education. Between July and December, substitutes were needed on nearly 5,000 occasions, about a 5 percent daily absentee rate."I'm getting so many complaints from patrons that teachers are out of class all the time," said board member Kathy Black.

Yet the district, like many others, is tapping all its resources - including a local temporary service - to bring in surrogates while teacher is home ill or at professional training workshops, many of which are sponsored by the district. Teachers would have to be paid extra to attend after-hours workshops.

"The numbers just aren't there because of a rise in employment rates in our city," said Dolores Riley, assistant superintendent of human resources, who authored the report.

"I think it's a statewide problem," said Mel Miles, director of human resources for Davis School District. "I don't think it will get better until we find compensation levels that would attract more qualified people into the substitute ranks.

"It's a darn tough job."

Davis School District pays substitutes without a college degree $41 per day; $51 per day with a degree, Miles said. Those with a current teaching certificate earn $55 per day. Longterm substitutes working more than 20 consecutive days in a position earn $67 per day, but must have certification.

Salt Lake district pays substitutes without college degrees or teaching certificates $55 per day; those with degrees receive $59 per day. It also pays 20 permanent substitutes, who often land in a different classroom every day, $69 per day plus benefits.

"The pay is terrible. It's almost laughable," said Gayle Brosnahan, who regularly substitute teaches at Indian Hills Elementary in the Salt Lake City School District.

But pay isn't Brosnahan's reason for substitute teaching. Rather, she does it to be closer to her fifth-grade daughter.

Fellow substitute Karin Paul teaches at the school because she loves children.

"It's not really difficult, especially in elementary school," said Paul, who used to substitute teach at several schools - a much more difficult task. "They're excited to meet someone new . . . usually by the end of the day, we're pretty good friends."

Jordan and Salt Lake districts, when push comes to shove, turn to SOS Staffing Services for substitutes. Those substitutes are paid the same rate, but the service receives an additional fee.

Jordan School District places about 150 substitute teachers each day, said spokeswoman Melinda Rock. The district requires all substitutes undergo orientation and have at least 90 college credit hours.

Davis at one point had such requirements, but its substitute pool dried up in a hurry, Miles said.

While Jordan isn't experiencing the shortage it did earlier this year - it pools from a list of 800 - Rock says it loses substitutes as quickly as it gains them.

"It's a revolving door," Rock said. "We're OK. But we're always looking for qualified people to add their names to that list."

While acknowledging substitutes' hard work, Salt Lake school board members fear little learning goes on when teacher is away, particularly in secondary schools. Student board member Chris Hill confirmed their concerns.

"Substitutes are there to make sure you're there," the East High student said, adding teacher absences often turn into review days.

While secondary substitutes teaching outside their expertise may serve as "baby sitters," elementary substituting is not as advanced, Brosnahan said.

"If you don't have the skills, (substitute teaching's) probably the hardest type of teaching, in my mind," she said. "But I insist on going in there and making a difference. I go in to teach."