As increasing substitute teacher shortages continue to plague schools across the country, one local superintendent set aside her administrative responsibilities and returned to the classroom as an educator.

Northshore School District Superintendent Dr. Michelle Reid filled in for an absent teacher during a physical education class at North Creek High School on Friday, Nov. 12.

“That's the first time in a while,” Reid said about covering the class for a day. “I think there are a number of administrators, principals and district office staff that have stepped in to help when we've had assignments that haven't been able to be covered.”

On the same day, other schools around the Seattle metro area shut down after the substitute shortage left some classrooms without educators. According to a Seattle Public Schools announcement, about 600 staff members requested the day off that Friday.

NSD has found substitutes to cover for about 80-85% of absent educators on any given day, according to a report from Time magazine. The remaining staff members are required to fill in the additional gaps.

Reid believes the shortage began with an increased number of staff absences, she said. As a result of the pandemic, many educators are getting sick or deciding to retire. 

“A number of our substitute teachers also were former teachers and retired,” she said. “They're older and some have health compromised conditions and aren’t able to substitute as we're still in a pandemic.”

Reid described the situation as a “perfect storm.”

Some school districts, like Tacoma Public Schools and Federal Way Public Schools, chose to increase the base pay for substitutes. In Federal Way, substitutes will receive $200 per day with the increased base rate. Seattle Public Schools offers substitute wages starting at $232 per day, according to the district website.

Reid said NSD offers competitive salaries and “great working conditions,” so the district hasn’t had difficulties with recruitment in the past. There are no plans to apply an incentive pay as of now, she added.

“As each year moves forward, it’s been harder and harder to find substitute teachers,” she said.

According to the 2021-22 budget for NSD, about $641,700 is allocated for funding the wages of substitute staff members. The district provides a base rate of $187.87 per day for certified substitutes, the report states.

To attract future educators, Reid said, the human resources department at NSD has been working with local universities and colleges to create partnerships that inspire young people to explore the profession. 

Substitute teachers aren’t required to be certified in specific topics. The district will also assist all hired candidates with training and obtaining the Washington State Emergency Substitute Teaching Certificate, according to the NSD website.

The district hires candidates for this role throughout the school year. According to the NSD website, candidates must obtain a bachelor’s degree, some experience working with children and the ability to work on-call with notification of assignments 24 hours in advance.

“I think it's an exciting opportunity for growth for our district,” said Lisa Youngblood Hall, chief communications officer at NSD. “To get more individuals interested in the career of educating our students is really important.”

To learn more about applying for a substitute teacher position, visit www. nsd.org/our-district/departments/human-resources/employment/classified-employment.

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