Friday, November 22 was one for the 2013 record books. On that day, 175 positions within the Fargo Public Schools (FPS), or 12% of the FPS certified and non-certified personnel, were filled by substitutes. This record number of subs so far this school year included 110 certified teachers and 46 support staff, with 19 additional positions that were each filled from within their building.
How does FPS cover staff absences? AESOP is the automated substitute placement and absence management software package used by the District to fill absences. Planned absences can be entered into the system in advance, and the system even handles unplanned absences due to illness or emergencies entered with less than 24-hour notice. Once the substitute opportunity is entered into the system, the software program then begins an automated process of culling lists and matching a substitute’s skills and availability with open positions, and then sending emails and placing calls from 5:15 a.m. until 10:30 p.m. daily to fill those positions.
Even with the automated system, AESOP Manager Brenda Fisher begins making phone calls at 6:00 a.m. to fill those last minute sub needs, along with the sub needs not matched up through the automated calling process.
There are 223 substitute teachers and 127 substitute paraprofessionals currently on the FPS roster to serve the absence needs of 971 certified FPS instructors and 500 non-certified FPS paraprofessionals.
The greatest need for subs is to cover sick time and emergency leave. The days with the greatest demand for substitutes are Mondays and Fridays, and the highest demand for grade levels is in kindergarten and first grades. On the average, 100 substitutes total work within the FPS system on a daily basis.
What happens when no sub can be found through AESOP for an open absence? Schools have to move on to their Plan B, which varies by grade level and building. At the elementary level it might mean the librarian, a Title program instructor, or even the school principal steps in to teach the class for the day. At the secondary level, word goes out to the building instructors who can sign up to teach a class during their regular planning and prep hours.
What qualities make up a good substitute? A successful substitute has an attitude of flexibility. They like variety in their daily activities. Most of all they should enjoy helping students of all ages—they should be a “people” person.
Human Resources Manager Jackie Prowse (who was the FPS “sub caller” for many years) explained that substitutes can really call the shots on their employment schedule. “They can tell us they are available Monday through Friday, and are willing to work grades K through 12, or narrow their availability down to only Fridays, and only a certain subject or grade. Either way, we’ll take ‘em! We can employ a substitute for a full work week if they’re interested.” Prowse also talked about substitutes using this employment avenue as a way to “get your foot in the door at FPS. Being a substitute really allows you to get the feel and flavor of a school building and its staff. Oftentimes those building relationships are how you pick up long term sub jobs, too.”
So why the sub shortage? Fargo Public Schools hired 101 new teachers for the 2013-14 school year to cover retirements and resignations; West Fargo Public Schools hired 130 new teachers for the year—some of each of those hires came from the FPS sub pool. All area schools have their own sub needs as well. When you add Moorhead Public Schools, the area’s private schools, and then consider outlying school districts, you have a high demand for substitutes, all within easy travel time from Fargo-Moorhead-West Fargo. It is estimated that more than 400 substitutes are employed each day by all of these schools combined.
Substitutes are an integral part of the FPS certified and non-certified staff each school day. Fargo Public Schools welcomes qualified substitutes to join our team.
Fargo Public Schools is accepting applications for on-call substitutes for instructors in all subject areas and grade levels, secretaries, and paraprofessional aides. Share this article with others you think might be interested in employment with Fargo Public Schools. To apply, go to www.fargo.k12.nd.us/HR then click “Online Application” or call Brenda Fisher at 701.446.1024.
Substitute Secretary & Paraprofessional Qualifications: High School diploma plus two years advanced schooling preferred, ability to work with special needs children, and/or office and computer experience.
Substitute Instructor Qualifications: Current North Dakota teaching license. If you possess a bachelor’s degree in a core subject area and are interested in substitute teaching, contact the Education Standards & Practices Board for licensing information at www.nd.gov/espb