by Kate Evans
Morgan County Schools is in great need of teachers and substitutes in every category of positions, from professional, service personnel, short-term and long-term substitute teachers. School Superintendent Kristen Tuttle said the county needs substitute aides, bus drivers, cooks, secretaries, nurses and custodians along with teachers.
School vacancies are a problem everywhere — here, in Berkeley and Jefferson Counties and nationwide, Tuttle noted. A variety of industries are also struggling to fill positions.
Tuttle said that the impact of vacancies and lack of substitutes includes training expense, difficulty building relationships with students and maintaining learning continuity for the kids.
Three months into this school year, some school positions are still being covered by a combination of substitutes and administrators and classes are being split up to be covered by multiple teachers.
“It’s a struggle and a huge stress,” Tuttle said of filling vacancies and finding substitutes.
Some long-term substitutes are currently filling some permanent job vacancies as the county searches for certified applicants, she said. Several vacancies are related to maternity leave or unpaid leaves of absence. There are also a few service personnel out on leave.
Tuttle acknowledged that some people have left the school system for family, medical or financial reasons or early retirement. Some long-term substitutes may have decided that teaching wasn’t for them. Sometimes they lose staff with very little notice, which can be challenging.
Colleges aren’t putting out many graduates and there aren’t applicants or people for the positions, Tuttle said. She has been trying to fill a school psychologist position for over a year. A school counselor position at Berkeley Springs High School has been posted for months.
If no substitutes are available to cover a teaching vacancy, the assistant principal, Title I teacher, interventionist, special education teacher, principal or another staff member may cover the class, she said. The school may have to piece together coverage with rotating teachers for each period all day.
Transportation Director Tammy Painter, a bus mechanic and the bus supervisor fill in as bus drivers when no bus driver substitutes are available, she said. Child Nutrition Director Angie Beddow has filled in as a cook when people have been out sick.
When teachers are pulled from their planning periods to cover a class, they can’t prepare and plan for their own class. If administrators fill in, they can’t offer teacher and student support and meet with parents. Supervisory aides may have to oversee kids on Schoology, said Tuttle.
Despite efforts to post job openings, advertise in various media and network at hiring events, the county still has many positions open.
Vacancies are also listed on the West Virginia Department of Education website, which links people back to the job postings on the Morgan County Schools website.
Associate degree teachers
Tuttle said that Morgan County Schools now hires individuals that have associate degrees as restricted substitute teachers. They currently have five restricted substitute teachers, which has helped.
The restricted substitute teachers can only sub 10 days in a row in the same position and can’t do long-term substitute positions, she said. A restricted substitute teacher or a bachelor’s degree substitute teacher need to take a course in substitute teaching, Tuttle said.
Substitute training courses
West Virginia substitute teacher training classes are offered online by EPIC (Eastern Panhandle Instructional Cooperative-formerly RESA 8) and are self-paced, Tuttle said. There is a cost.
The courses can be taken by those that are interested in becoming a substitute teacher or that want to renew their substitute teaching permit. Part of the course includes virtual classroom observations. More information can be found on the EPIC website.
The West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) offers free substitute teacher training which is also online and self-paced. Once someone completes the substitute teaching classes, they apply for their substitute teaching certificate, Tuttle said. Information about the process for pursuing substitute teacher training can be found at the WVDE website.
Grow your own teachers
Morgan County Schools is also looking into establishing a “Grow Your Own Teachers” program for next fall, Tuttle said. High school students could take courses for teaching for dual credit. They would be able to shorten the time to become a teacher by a year. Local students could be hired to teach in Morgan County once they graduate from college.
With substitute service personnel like aides, bus drivers, cooks and clerks, people must take a certified exam in the area for which they’re applying. If they pass the test, they get fingerprinted and are hired, Tuttle said.
Substitute bus drivers are required to have training. It takes one to two months to get certified. Trainees have to take a class and then get their CDL license. Tuttle said basically they hire a bus driver and then lose one or someone retires. The school system has two permanent substitute bus drivers.
Tuttle said people who are new to the area or are looking for work should “please come and talk to us,” she stressed.
Tuttle believes that there are many highly educated people in Morgan County that could really help with their need for teachers and substitutes. They’re always looking for people that love and care for children and that want to work with youth, she said.
All positions in the school system serve students in some way or another – by providing instruction, keeping the schools running, feeding kids or getting them to and from school.
Anyone is interested in being a teacher, a substitute teacher or substitute service personnel for Morgan County Schools can contact Human Resources Director Dale Shaffer at 304-258-2430 extension 2013.