Originally created 12/01/05

Pay, discipline problems pain substitute teachers



They have the same responsibilities as a teacher, but they have a tougher job and get paid less.

Those are a couple of the reasons teacher organizations cite for the nation's shortage in substitute teachers, and that shortage is being felt locally.

For Ophelia McCain, substitute teaching can be a matter of survival, dealing with little pay and a lot of discipline problems. She is in her eighth year as a substitute teacher and has been working at Jenkins-White Elementary School since October.

"They look at you as not being a real teacher," Ms. McCain said, adding that it takes a couple of weeks to establish discipline and earn their respect. "Once I got into it, I started enjoying it."

According to the National Education Association, a recent survey found that 96 percent of school systems had difficulties in finding substitutes, and 40 percent of those school systems are having severe problems. Consequently, classes often go uncovered.

Jocelyn Whitfield, the director of government relations for the Georgia Association of Educators, said shortages vary from county to county, but that members of the teachers' group have expressed concerns from throughout the state.

Georgia has had "massive growth," creating even more demand for educators, she said. That comes on top of the challenges in attracting substitute teachers, such as the pay and discipline problems.

The result has been sporadic shortages in some school systems, especially those in urban areas, Ms. Whitfield said.

"That's not very often, but there are days when schools have to cover with staff," said Connie Davis, Columbia County's executive director of human relations.

On average, Columbia County has 62 teachers out each day, but draws from a pool of 355 approved substitute teachers, Mrs. Davis. There is the occasional day, however, in which there is a shortage, particularly around the holidays and during the flu season.

Across the Savannah River, Aiken County experiences similar shortages.

David Caver, the assistant superintendent for Area 1, the county's most populous area, said his schools have an "abundance" of substitute teachers. Occasionally, it's difficult to fine one willing and able to work when called on.

Mr. Caver said pay is certainly a "hindrance" in attracting more substitutes, and other school officials agree.

Pay is determined by each school system and rises based on education. In local counties, a substitute teacher with a high school diploma filling in short term is paid $50 a day. Long-term substitutes and those with higher education earn more money.

Richmond County hasn't experienced shortages in substitute teachers, said Audrey Spry, the county's director of high school personnel.

"So far, and knock on wood, we haven't had shortages," she said.

Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or greg.gelpi@augustachronicle.com.

Sub shortage - Nationally, substitute teacher salaries average about $65-$70 per day. - In rural areas, rates are often as low as $40-$45. - Half of public schools serving minority children fill teaching vacancies with long-term substitutes. - In 77 percent of the nation's school districts, substitute teachers are given no training at all. Source: National Education AssociationSub supply richmond County columbia county Number of teachers 2,300 1,500Number out each day 120 62Number of subs available 1,260 355Sources: Richmond County and Columbia County school systems[CAPTION]

Interested in becoming a sub?Richmond County: 826-1130 Columbia County: 855-2503 Aiken County: (803) 641-2463[CAPTION]

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