Teacher Shortages: Staff Steps In

Former middle school teacher Leslie Garrity subs for Kate Clark in the library. Present and past teachers have been willing to step up to fill each others positions when substitutes are difficult to come by.

Olive Ritchie

Former middle school teacher Leslie Garrity subs for Kate Clark in the library. Present and past teachers have been willing to step up to fill each other’s positions when substitutes are difficult to come by.

Olive Ritchie, Staff Reporter

These last couple of months have made one thing apparent: there is a serious staffing shortage at Salida High School. Last month  SHS had to go online because there weren’t enough staff due to Covid and personal events. This situation has been highlighting how unified the staff is. They have been assisting absent teachers by stepping into classes to substitute during their planning periods.

Staff absences can be categorized into two main groups: personal leave and sick leave. Principal Talmage Trujillo thinks both are equally important.

“The things that matter to us most- weddings, christenings, baptisms, life events, anniversaries, things that really matter don’t always happen on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. Travel can’t always happen on off-days. Being able to participate in these important aspects of life is critically important for all of us,” Trujillo said.

Measures are being taken to try to better support teachers. The Collective Bargaining Agreement is a group of staff representatives from every department. This also includes the transportation and janitorial staff. Kate Clark, the librarian here at SHS, is a leader within this agreement as she is the president of the teachers union. They are trying to find ways to incentivize teachers to keep teaching. Staff recognizes that sometimes teachers need a break.

“I think a lot of teachers need a mental health day, which is incredibly important. We all need those from time to time,” Administrative Assistant Jennifer Campbell said.

As more teachers are absent, the lack of substitute teachers has also hurt the school system. According to Campbell, substitute wages are a huge reason why SHS is struggling to find enough substitute teachers.

“A lot of subs make 90 dollars a day to work here. We have a substitute that commutes all the way from Moffet. If you think about the cost of gas, by the time she pays for her gas going here and back there’s really no incentive to sub.”

Cory Sheffel has been trying to make sure that substitute teachers are doing alright despite being overworked while performing a grueling job.

“I’m trying to check in with the substitutes in the building frequently to let them know that I’m there to support them. Being a substitute teacher is a hard job. You don’t have a relationship built up with the students, you don’t have the routine, the expectations, all of those things. I want the substitutes to know we’re thankful for them and we’re here to support them. You really feel like an island of one when you’re a sub.”

Campbell thinks there needs to be a substantial change in order  to attract more substitutes

“I think if we were to offer subs more compounded pay that would attract more people, but until then I think this is going to be an ongoing issue. I think we either have to increase pay, or the cost of living needs to go down,” she said.

With a shortage of substitutes, classes will often have block to block coverage by other teachers and staff members including superintendent David Blackburn.

“It can create a strain on teachers. During the time that they usually have to get ready for classes, they’re off teaching another class,” Scheffel said.

Although taxing on many of the staff, Trujillo, however, has found this to be one benefit to the staff shortage.

“[The staffing shortage] has given me the opportunity to step into the classroom myself a few times and get to know a few students. I see this as a positive.”

The SHS staff is invaluable to its functioning; teachers, office staff, lunch staff, and janitorial staff are all equally important. Most staff feel that others have really stepped up to the challenges this shortage has brought.

Trujillo said, “I think teachers have done extremely well this year in terms of their resilience, adaptability, and professionalism. I’m proud of what the Salida High School staff has done this year in the face of hardship and uncertainty.”