TN schools seek to recruit substitute teachers amid staff shortages

TN schools seek to recruit substitute teachers amid staff shortages

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (WKRN) – School districts across the state continue to combat staff shortages by encouraging the recruitment of teachers, bus drivers and maintenance staff, but they also need more replacements.

And finding those replacements can also be a challenge.

Substitute teachers are used in the classroom when teachers need time off due to illness, bereavement, parental leave or other reasons. They can be retired teachers, young professionals, or even high school graduates, as long as they pass a background check and follow any district-specific employment guidelines.

Metro Nashville Public Schools employs several categories of surrogates, including permanent surrogates and surrogate support positions. According to MNPS Executive Director of Communications Sean Braisted, the permanent replacement position allows an individual to become a full-time employee of the school and can replace a teacher as needed, as well as “becoming part of the climate and school culture.”

Braisted said the district operates with a large number of surrogates, which means the district will always accept requests for surrogates. These subs play a vital role in supporting MNPS students and staff, providing instructional support for students in the classroom or filling the cafeteria or library as an extra set of hands.

Substitute teacher pay in Metro Nashville ranges from $100 to $145 per day, depending on the individual’s role and qualifications.

Substitute support people with a high school diploma or equivalent can earn $100 a day, including a $15 daily incentive to work a full 7.5-hour day.

Substitute teachers start at $120 per day of 7.5 hours for those with at least a high school diploma or equivalent, $130 per day for someone with a bachelor’s degree or higher but not a teaching certificate, and $145 per day for someone with a valid Tennessee teaching license. All rates also include a full-day incentive payment amount.

Clarksville-Montgomery County schools like to have about 500 people ready to serve as replacements if needed, according to CMCSS communications director Anthony Johnson.

At the moment, however, Johnson said the district only has about 250 replacements for its nearly 2,600 teachers. That number is more replacements than the district had for the 2021-2022 school year, he added.

The number of submarines in Clarksville has been significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, Johnson told News 2.

“The pandemic appears to have had a significant effect on the recruitment and retention of surrogates,” he said. “In 2019-2020, the CMCSS had almost 425 active surrogates. In 2021-2021, that pool has shrunk by about 50% to 216, and the district has yet to return to a pre-pandemic replacement pool.”

Pay rates for surrogates in Clarksville start at $12 an hour for someone with a high school diploma or equivalent or college degree. An individual with a replacement STEDI certification or an expired teaching certification can earn $12.50 an hour, and someone with a current teaching certification or someone who is a retired teacher from Tennessee can earn $16.50 an hour.

That rate is also subject to change, according to Johnson, as the district is always evaluating its compensation to retain and recruit employees.

Smaller school districts also face recruitment shortfalls for their replacements after the pandemic begins. Schools in the city of Tullahoma, Coffee County, told News 2 that they saw their number of available applications decrease from 2020 to 2021.

“Like every school district in Tennessee, finding replacement teachers is a challenge,” the district said in a statement. “During the 2019-2020 school year, prior to COVID-19, TCS had 49 substitute teachers; during the 2020-2021 school year, that number has decreased to 27 teachers.”

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Currently, the district has 30 approved substitute teachers and 11 new candidates.

Last year, Tullahoma made a concerted effort to recruit more subs, including raising the pay rate for subs in December 2021. Uncertified replacements will earn $75 a day; Certificate, $90; and retired teachers $115 for their work as a substitute in Tullahoma.

Like Clarksville and Nashville, Tullahoma keeps its job postings for replacements open. To apply for a substitute teacher position, visit your local school district’s website and ask about requirements.

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