Sub Scarcity

Parkway deals with continued sub shortage


Jacob Moretti

Jodi Sommer helps sophomore DeAsia Gathing while substituting for Mrs. Winslow.

The feeling of having a substitute teacher. It’s a feeling that sophomore Irfan Mahmud can’t compare to anything else. However, some students aren’t getting that feeling this year, because South High is scrambling to fill teacher absences due to a substitute shortage.

Mahmud said it’s always a pleasant surprise to have a sub in a class. 

“When I see that we have a sub, I get super excited because I know it’s going to be an easier day,” Mahmud said.

But after that feeling of happiness, what is the cost of your teacher being absent? And what if there aren’t any subs available at all?

According to science teacher Russell Barton, depending on the lesson, sometimes it doesn’t matter whether he’s in the classroom or if there’s a substitute teacher.

“If the sub follows the plan and the curriculum is related, then there’s no loss. There are some lessons that I don’t need to be there for and kids can still get the most out of them,” he said.

However, freshman Natalie Brody disagrees.

“When we have a sub, I feel like I don’t really get anything productive done,” she said.

But again, what if there’s no sub at all? Why aren’t there enough subs this school year? Science teacher Kathy Scheff said that the sub shortage is partially a fault of COVID.

I think it started with COVID (less people wanted to work around a lot of people at the time). Now, I’m not sure. I think more effort needs to go into recruiting good people to sub,” she said.

Assistant Principal Jenn Sebold is in charge of assigning substitutes at South High. She agrees with Scheff and adds another insight.

Wearing masks all day was difficult for many and it was scary to some to be so close to so many people indoors at once. Another factor is that we had more teachers out with illness as well,” Sebold said. 

Librarian Katie Pendleton also commented on the reasons why South is short on substitutes.

During COVID, many retired teachers who had spent time subbing probably decided to stop subbing because of health concerns,” she said.

Parkway currently pays its substitutes $115 per day. For 7 hours of teaching, that equates to just over $16 per hour. To contrast this, that’s the same amount of money that a shift manager at a Mcdonald’s restaurant can make–a job where you can be 16.

Scheff, Mahmud, Brody, and Pendleton all assumed pay was an issue in the number of subs.

“Sub pay needs to be raised if there isn’t going to be a shortage anymore,” Mahmud said.

But for Lee Kimberling, a full-time substitute teacher at South High, the low pay is not a problem.

“I like high schoolers. I’m not here for the money,” she said.

The sub shortage has gotten bad enough that some teachers have to use their plan period to cover for teachers who are absent. Take Barton, for example.

“I have covered for fellow teachers before, but only inside the science department. They give us the option of covering for extra pay, but we have to give up our plan period,” he said.

In the state of Missouri, potential substitutes need 36 hours of college credit or pass a 20-hour online course. In addition, substitute teachers must pass a criminal background check. Parkway’s substitutes are hired through an outside company called Kelly Services.

Sebold said she and her secretary, Mariann James, have a system to try to recruit substitutes.

“Mariann does all the work training and assigning subs,’ Sebold said. “We both do work advertising with the company ‘Kelly Services’ to recruit subs.”

When a substitute is not available to fill a teacher absence, two potential solutions are available: teachers can use their planning period to help sub for extra money, which Barton talked about earlier, or students in the class are sent to the library to do work there. 

Bringing a class to the library is the last resort when trying to get coverage for a class. There are sometimes weeks that we have 10 classes come to the library because of the lack of subs. Me and Mrs. Murray, another librarian, share the subbing responsibility,” Pendleton said.

Kimberling explained why she decided to become a sub.

“I saw the need in our community and knew that schools needed subs. I think that subbing is genuinely a good way to serve the community,” Kimberling said.