Norway-Vulcan schools to create full-time sub position

NORWAY — Norway-Vulcan Area Schools officials hope creating a full-time substitute teaching position will help the district avoid future surprise days off for students, like the one that occurred earlier last week.

Classes at Norway High School were canceled Oct. 11 due to a staffing shortage, including substitute teachers. Parents and students were notified of the closure via an email blast sent out in the morning.

“Due to high staff illnesses and an inability to find adequate substitute teacher coverage, Norway High School is closed for the day,” the email stated. “Sorry for the inconvenience.”

Just two days after the unexpected day off for NHS students, Superintendent Louis Steigerwald proposed the school board approve hiring a full-time substitute at its regular monthly meeting Wednesday night to perhaps prevent the same situations in the future.

“We haven’t even hit cold and flu season,” Steigerwald said, referring to the staffing shortage. “This is one of the things we could do.”

According to Steigerwald, the position would not be an employee of the school district but rather hired and employed through EDUStaff, a third-party company that contracts with school districts to provide substitute teachers. That would provide an overall cost-savings, with the district not having to fund retirement benefits.

Unlike most substitutes who are called in on an as-needed basis, the full-time position would have the individual automatically report to work.

“We’re looking for someone who’d show up every day. We have trouble not getting people to show up,” said Bill O’Brion, board vice president.

“I can’t think of a day when we couldn’t use that person,” he added. “It’s not useful if kids can’t come to school because we don’t have enough staff.”

The idea of having a full-time substitute is not a new one. Steigerwald knows this from his own experience as a teacher.

“I started my career in education years ago in the Detroit system as a full-time sub,” he said. “It’s the same concept now.”

Steigerwald added it once was common for young teachers just out of college to sub for a school district for a year or more as a way of gaining experience.

“That’s how they got their foot in the door,” he said. “(But) that’s been flipped on its head. Young teachers are getting snapped up right out of college. They might never sub.”

More recently, school districts have depended more on retired teachers who are willing to come in as subs, Steigerwald said — though that pool seems to have dried up somewhat as well.

“When we started the school year, I told the board one of the concerns was a shortage of subs,” Steigerwald said. “That’s been a problem the last few years. COVID made it even worse.”

The board unanimously approved creating the new substitute position on a 7-0 vote.

According to Steigerwald, the position will be budgeted at just less than $26,000 for the school year. That would include the individual’s salary, a flat rate of $100 per day for 134 days, as well as FICA taxes and cost of health benefits.

Potential candidates would need to have completed 60 credit hours at an accredited college or university and pass a background check. As of Friday, the new position had not yet been posted on the district’s website or advertised locally.

Steigerwald added that, while not required, he will bring the issue back before the school board once the right candidate is found, though he’s not expecting that to happen quickly, considering many local businesses are having trouble filling vacant positions.

“I’m really interested to see if we get any applicants. That’s my first concern,” he said. “Just because you post a job doesn’t mean you’ll be able to hire anybody.”


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