Duluth School District Calls Substitute Teacher Shortage a ‘Crisis’

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It’s not unheard of to talk about a teacher shortage, as in full-time instructors, but what about a dwindling number of available substitute teachers?

It’s a growing trend that is causing problems state-wide, especially in the Northland.

“We’re consistently running 25 to 27 teachers out on a daily basis for illness or family illness,” said Tim Sworsky, Senior Human Resources Manager with Duluth Public Schools. 

Sworsky said in the last year the district has had 45 teachers retire and they have added 16 new positions at the elementary school. 

Although the growth is appreciated, the majority of the new full-time teachers used to be in the substitute pool. 

Forget about taking a sick day – you may just be creating more work for your peers.

“When they aren’t all filled (the sub positions) other teachers are pitching in and in lieu of their preparation period they’re filling in for other classrooms,” said Sworsky. 

The sporadic changes can leave students feeling like they don’t have a lot of stability in the classroom with different instructors. 

The other twist in the mix involves new legislative initiatives put forth by the state, which can result in more staff development days. 

“Some schools are only sending one person to the professional development out of a team of teachers. Say all of third grade is going, but really only one of three can go,” explained Bernie Burnham, with Duluth Federation of Teachers. 

In order to fill the demand, district officials told us they have hired some people with four year degrees, but no teaching license. 

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