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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Shortage of substitute teachers in city

By Brian McCready
Milford Bureau Chief
— On the bright side for the schools, there is no substitute teacher shortage this week.
Students and staff are on winter vacation.
But while top school officials acknowledge there continues to be a shortage of substitutes, they say they are doing all they can to remedy the problem.
“We’re still experiencing a shortage of substitutes (in) kindergarten through grade 12. We’re looking at different avenues. It’s still an issue,” Superintendent of Schools Harvey B. Polansky recently told Board of Education members.
The issue of a substitute shortage surfaced in January. It was then that former PTA Council President Michael Taylor told the school board of his concerns about an apparent lack of substitutes at Joseph A. Foran High School.
Taylor said his children were spending too much time in study halls.
At the time, administrators responded that they pay substitutes a competitive wage of $90 daily, and that there was a shortage statewide, especially at high schools where many substitutes do not want to work.
Personnel Director Wendy Kopazna said Milford is selective in hiring its subs.
Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree or 90 college credits. Officials also undertake a criminal background check.
Substitutes can choose in which building and at what level they want to work, and Kopazna said the turnover is high.
The school system has 670 teachers.
In an average day, there can be 80 to 120 teacher absences, and calls can come in at the last minute.
Kopazna said the district has someone who calls substitutes at the last minute, but it’s very difficult to get those slots filled.
“If a substitute doesn’t do a good job, we take them out and put them in another school if it’s not a serious issue,” Kopazna said.
The district also uses a computer program to call substitute teachers, and it can restrict calling a particular substitute for a specific school.
Parent Cathy Byrnes said her daughter attends Mathewson Elementary School and there are not enough substitutes, which she said is not good for continuity.


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