Unless you are a teacher or a school administrator, you may not know how vital substitutes are for the well-being of classrooms.
One of the many lessons learned from the pandemic is having an engaged pool of substitutes makes a tremendous difference in every school district's ability to provide a quality education.
Some great stories have emerged. For example, over a half dozen school districts have raised daily pay rates for substitutes by anywhere from 10% to 50%. Some of these increases have been temporary and some are permanent. The ability for governing boards to take quick action has dramatically improved absence coverage across Arizona.
Even more creatively, Dysart Unified School District (DUSD) tested a Retention Stipend program leading up to the holidays. For substitutes who worked 50% or more of available days, they received a $1,000 stipend. Those who worked 75% or more qualified for $1,500. This program resulted in a tripling of substitutes working in these top tiers of activity.
Over 70% of available DUSD subs worked 3 or more days each week. During the 2019-20 school year, prior to the pandemic, only 25% of available substitutes worked this often. It was such a success, a Spring edition of the program has been approved.
Not all incentives were financial. There have been numerous examples of districts dramatically increasing their communication, surveying available substitutes and sharing gratitude. Additionally, compassion, support and connection have been offered to those educators who were unable to work due to COVID-relating concerns. Those that were able to fill absences felt more appreciated and valued.
The cumulative effect of this additional focus on substitutes shines through with more classes covered and more students served.
It is each class, each day, over the years which creates the difference in a student's opportunity for success.