Maries County R-2 School District substitute fill rate low despite recent DESE initiative

By Roxie Murphy, Staff Writer
Posted 10/15/20

Maries R-2 Superintendent Dr. Lenice Basham told the board of education on Sept. 29 that the district is at a 13 percent no-fill rate for substitute teachers — more than a month after the …

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Maries County R-2 School District substitute fill rate low despite recent DESE initiative

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Maries R-2 Superintendent Dr. Lenice Basham told the board of education on Sept. 29 that the district is at a 13 percent no-fill rate for substitute teachers — more than a month after the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) passed an initiative program to certify temporary educators.

“We continue to struggle with substitutes,” Basham said. “We always struggle, but it is a little harder this time when teachers go on quarantine.”

DESE filed the new alternative education option on Aug. 19 and implemented it on Sept. 2.

Basham said the district had 18 teachers out in September that they could not get substitute teachers to fill.

“We had to fill it in-house,” Basham said while discussing the 13 percent no-fill rate in the district. “That is a little higher than normal at this point in the year.”

According to a press release from DESE, the department was able to change established rules through a proposed amendment and an emergency rule. The established rule previously required substitute teachers to possess 60 semester hours or more of college-level credits from a DESE-recognized and regionally accredited academic degree-granting institution.

To take advantage of the alternative education rule, a prospective educator would have to complete 20 hours of DESE-approved online training. Additional training includes substitute teacher online training to be eligible for a substitute certificate.

The training includes topics such as professionalism, honoring diversity, engaging students, foundational classroom management techniques, basic instructional strategies, supporting students with special needs, and working with at-risk youth.

Fingerprinting is also required before a potential substitute may teach in the district.

Additionally, substitute teachers are trained in ALICE, bullying prevention, and Title 9.

Potential educators may contact their local school districts to find out more. A candidate must have the above alternative education requirements and be at least 21-years-old. The only exception to the 21-years-of-age rule is if the candidate has at least 60 accredited college hours. Applicants under 21-years-old must have certification from DESE.

Paul Katnik, DESE Assistant Commissioner for the Office of Educator Quality, said this process began because of a declining number of candidates entering the education profession, and administrators expressed concern about the shortage of substitute teachers, especially during the 2020-21 school year due to COVID-19.

“With already a declining number of candidates entering the education profession, this option will help Missouri school districts and charter schools develop a deeper pool of substitute teachers both in the short-term and long-term,” Katnik said.

Further changes have been made to assist educators with current teaching certificates.

According to a press release from DESE, individuals with valid Missouri teaching certificates who wish to substitute teach are no longer required by DESE to apply for a substitute certificate. This includes individuals who hold an initial professional, career-continuous professional, lifetime, student services, administration, provisional and/or temporary certificate.

There are restrictions on the number of hours a retired educator may substitute teach. If at any time the educator allows his/her teaching certificate to expire, then a substitute certificate would be required.

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