Del Mar Union School District taking steps to handle shortage of substitute teachers

The Del Mar Union School District is dealing with a widespread substitute teacher shortage, trying to cover teachers being out of the classroom for professional development with a shallow sub pool they share with a consortium of local districts, including Solana Beach, Rancho Santa Fe, Encinitas and Cardiff.

DMUSD board members requested the issue be put on the agenda for their next meeting on Nov. 19.

“Our teachers’ No. 1 priority is the kids. They want to be in the classroom,” said Jason Romero, assistant superintendent of human resources.

When teachers are pulled out for professional development on the Common Core or Cognitively Guided Instruction, the training makes them that much more prepared to tackle the curriculum.

“To cancel training or to send teachers back to the classroom because we don’t have enough substitutes is really not in the best interest of anybody,” Romero said. “We’re making sure our teachers get the highest quality training and that the highest quality of substitute is taking over the class.”

Romero said the sub shortage problem is being experienced county- and statewide.

Over the past five years, he said the number of people going into teaching has plummeted; the number of people signed up to take the California Basic Educational Skills Test teacher credential test in the state has dropped by 72 percent.

With the passage of Prop 30 and the new Local Control Funding Formula, things changed and the new funding model allowed many schools the ability to reduce class sizes, which meant hiring more teachers. As a result, substitute teaching pools are extremely limited.

Romero said they have been working on solutions for this challenging issue since last year.

“We’ve decided to tackle this problem before it becomes, as the county calls it, a substitute shortage epidemic,” he said.

Last year, the district adjusted its compensation for substitutes from $90 to $100 a day. As the DMUSD is part of a consortium of districts that all draw from the same limited substitute pool, Romero said this year the districts have posted all of their professional development dates on a master calendar. This gives them the ability to re-schedule development dates if for example, Encinitas needs 35 teachers on the same day Del Mar needs 24.

“We can shift our days to make sure they’re not in conflict so the likelihood of being short (of) subs is diminished,” Romero said.

DMUSD is also assigning subs to dates as early as possible and has created a separate substitute pool just for instructional aides for special education classrooms outside the consortium. Romero said they are continuing to interview substitute teachers to add to the pool and said they hope once they get another group of teachers in, they will be able to see some relief district-wide.

Gina Vargas, Del Mar California Teachers Association co-president, said at the Oct. 22 board meeting that the organization appreciates that the district is being proactive by taking steps “to continue the amazing professional development while still maintaining the integrity of our classrooms.”

Vargas said there are still some “hiccups,” and the teachers association is concerned when they hear that classes are divided up, or Extended Studies Curriculum teachers are being pulled out to cover classrooms.

“We want to support teachers and students … and we want to help solve the substitute shortage in a collaborative way,” Vargas said.