Berkeley County Assistant Superintendent of Schools, Dr Justin Schooley, recently shared stories at an education council meeting about helping fill food bags for students when a cafeteria was running low on workers .
In Jefferson County, the Superintendent, Dr. Bondy Gibson-Learn, spoke of fulfilling all levels of programs, the respect for educators and staff that has been reinforced throughout these replacements.
“I’ve taught every week since starting school, like others,” Gibson-Learn said. “We have, a few times, emptied the school board office and said, ‘If you can help, go help. If you’re a secretary you want to go and make copies, whatever you can do, go help.
Like districts across the country, local school systems face a shortage of replacements in virtually every position, leaving districts to find ways to supplement the sub-pool, while providing student services to the best of their ability. .
“It is not uncommon for some of our service staff to take on additional duties, which may mean that someone is working as a class aide during the day and might consider a night shift,” the said. BCS Communications Director, Elaine Bobo. “These may be some people in the teaching and learning department who make themselves available to schools, whether in a support position or serving to cover a break in a classroom. They may be people helping to fill school breakfast lunch bags that are on the go. It really gave us the opportunity to make our team work for the benefit of our children.
Megan Baldwin, Berkeley County Talent Management Coordinator, explained that the situation has arisen across the country due to a shortage of certified teachers everywhere. Between the positions left vacant due to this shortage and the expected daily absences from any workplace, the pool of available replacements is increasingly limited as these individuals take on daily tasks and long-term positions. . She said there were more than 500 substitute teachers in Berkeley County alone, not counting service staff contractors.
The shortage has added an extra level of stress to whatever pandemic student service demands, and local districts have expressed gratitude to those who have helped make things work through tough times.
“The shortage of substitutes is real,” said Tana Burkhart, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning at BCS. “We have bus drivers who do double trips. There have been challenges with that. Day to day we have people absent, because they might have daily illnesses, and we come out of a pandemic and face problems with that.
“I just really want to applaud the collaborative effort that everyone has made,” added Burkhart. “We want to thank the community for being patient with us as we work through this. While it’s a challenge, it also provided opportunities and we learned to pivot and adapt and change, and some of them have been for the better. But we work really hard forever, always, always keeping the students safe and providing them with the best education possible. “
Bobo explained that even on the service side, the shortage is a reality. She said that typically, individuals become full-time employees in these positions after initially working a secondary position, but with the shortage, employees are directly hired full-time.
The two local counties have focused their efforts on recruitment and retention, with Berkeley County hosting job fairs and Jefferson County taking even bigger steps. Jefferson recently announced that Fridays will be three-hour early layoffs to give employees more time to prepare and deal with things that can’t be done with students in the building. The district also approved the first step of a multi-year recruitment and retention plan that includes increased wages and benefits, as well as greater autonomy.
“We’ve been working on this topic for six months, getting feedback from teachers and service staff to see what they need to work here,” Gibson-Learn said. “They had good ideas. “
Jefferson’s move towards a three-hour early layoff is all the rage across the state and country, with some districts set to be removed entirely due to understaffing. Berkeley County has been fortunate so far not to need to take such dire action, but that doesn’t change the weight of the matter.
“We haven’t had this situation yet. We were very lucky, ”said Burkhart. “I think it goes back to the creativity of our principals and teachers and individual buildings, using the staff they have to always ensure this is a safe learning environment for our students. This security room is huge. This is number 1. If we ever get to a point where this situation is not certain we will have to consider other alternatives, but at this point we have also done a great job.
Baldwin said Berkeley County was not there yet, but the district is taking all possible steps to provide instruction and service, as well as to find employees to fill vacancies.
“I think the way we come together to help solve the problem is that we have a lot of teachers and school staff who are working harder, teachers who have stepped up and been ready to work during their planning period for. help cover classrooms, as needed, to ensure children have the educational support they need, ”she said. “That’s a huge ‘thank you’ from us because we know they work hard, and we know they are tired and we know it adds stress to them. What we’re really trying to do here is exhaust every means possible to help create these sublists in order to take that stress out of our educators and give our teachers back the planning time that we know we need. ‘they need to alleviate some of that stress. “
Despite the added stress and challenges of sub-scarcity, local district leaders expressed appreciation for those who rallied in the midst of the struggles.
“One thing I would like to say about the county in general is the collaborative effort that has been put into trying to support teachers and all staff, whether they are bus drivers or cooks or from anyone, ”Burkhart said. “We really want to go back and thank these people because they are doing everything they can to support the students and the education that the students receive.
“They just did a really fantastic job, and we’ve taken retirees out as well, and they’re also helping us cover and replace in all of those positions. We want to thank them. Our community has really supported us. “