Community steps up to help as CUSD teacher subs - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Community steps up to help as CUSD teacher subs

January 16th, 2022 development
Community steps up to help as CUSD teacher subs

By Ken Sain, Staff Writer

On the first day of the new term, Chandler Unified School District’s top administrators headed back to school, ready to step in and teach a class if needed because of a shortage of substitute teachers.

Among them was Superintendent Frank Narducci.

“Actually, I’m available to sub,” Narducci said. “We stopped in at our high-risk schools to see if there was any help needed.”

The district used social media to appeal to parents, putting out a call for parents to apply for sub positions and increasing the daily pay from $115 to $145.

It worked.

“I want to thank our community, because they have turned in over 10 applications to ESI [Educational Services Inc.], who works with the hiring of our substitute teachers,” Narducci said during Wednesday’s CUSD Governing Board meeting.

“When we were at 43, Dr. [Wendy] Nance was told by ESI, that that was the most applications they ever got for one school district. When we hit 100, they said, ‘What are you guys doing out there?’”

Nance, the assistant superintendent in charge of human resources, said the shortage was severe, but that CUSD still had it better than other districts in the area.

“Since we came back from winter break we’re probably averaging about 10 percent,” Nance said. That means about 500 to 550 teachers out. The high came on Monday with about 600 out.

Nance says they typically are able to fill about 92 percent of that with substitute teachers. However, with the current spread of COVID-19 that number dropped to the low 80s.

“But we were still higher than our neighbors,” Nance said. “We just divide and conquer: if there’s any school that was hit particularly hard, our departments are willing to go in and assist them.”

Katie Nash, who is president of the Chandler Education Association, said part of the problem is some substitute teachers don’t feel safe stepping into a classroom during a pandemic.

“We have a number of substitutes who don’t want to come in because the case counts are too high,” she said. “What are we going to do when we have so many staff out?”

Nash said adding to the stress teachers are already under are new guidelines adopted based on county health and CDC recommendations that allow students back into the classroom quicker after exposure to the coronavirus or testing positive. She said in addition to everything else, they are now supposed to act as enforcer and keep track of which students must wear a mask.

During Wednesday’s meeting, Narducci stressed that the recent uptick in cases did not start in the schools.

“It’s important to understand, it’s community spread that’s impacting schools. It’s not school spread that’s impacting our community.”

After the meeting Narducci said as bad as the substitute teacher shortage is in the district, it’s much worse elsewhere.

“We have a very high fill rate, about 90 percent average,” Narducci said. “Our fill rate is pretty high compared to other districts. There’s some districts that might have a 47 percent fill rate, so it’s very hard for them to do that. So, we’re blessed.

The people who recently filled out an application to substitute teach will have to submit their fingerprints and go through a background check before they can start working.

“I’m just overwhelmed with the number of people who showed support to come in to sub,” he said. “That’s just amazing to get a hundred more applications in, and these are applications and not just inquiries to sub in our school district. It’s just fantastic.