Concerns expressed about money for substitutes
With the projected loss of 19 teacher assistants from the county’s three schools, one of the speakers at Tuesday night’s public hearing on Mathews County Public Schools’ $12.34 million budget urged the school board to set aside enough money to hire substitute teachers.
Rebecca Ethington, a first grade teacher assistant at Lee-Jackson Elementary School and the mother of two children in the school system, said that at the start of the month, school employees were notified that there was no money left in this year’s budget for substitute teachers.
This has happened for several years, even with teacher assistants frequently doing double duty, filling in as substitutes. "But next year you’re not going to have us," she said. At the elementary level, classes can be combined. And while placing 40 children in one class for a day is far from ideal, she said, this isn’t even an option at Thomas Hunter Middle School or Mathews High School with their specialized curricula.
"We’re going to need more money in this category," she said. She said she tried to compile a list of days that she and her fellow teacher assistants have been called to substitute, but soon realized it would be difficult to calculate. "Everybody subs," she said.
Ethington, who stands to lose her job in the coming year, said she plans to volunteer at Lee-Jackson as much as she can.
School board member Lanell Jarvis took up Ethington’s question in the work session that immediately followed the public hearing. The 2012-2013 draft budget calls for an increase of $10,000 (from $33,000 to $43,000) for substitute teachers.
"Is that amount sufficient?" she asked Superintendent of Schools David J. Holleran. "Probably not," Holleran replied. Determining just how much the division needs in terms of substitute teachers is a "crapshoot," he said, with the biggest factor being how many teachers take a leave for pregnancy. "What gets us from year to year is how much maternity leave we have," he said. However, before an outside substitute is called, the school first looks to its own available personnel—a practice that will continue next year, Holleran added.
The issue of substitutes goes beyond teachers, Holleran said. With three custodians to be laid off next year, what happens when one calls in sick, he asked. And the maintenance department is also down to its bare bones as well.
"We’re planning for these scenarios as best we can," the superintendent said of the personnel shortages. However, he added, "it’s amazing what people can do when they have to step up."