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School district faces substitute teacher shortage

Common Core training means there's an increased demand for stand-in teachers in Newport-Mesa Unified.

November 06, 2013|By Hannah Fry

With an increasing number of teachers spending more days outside their classrooms in preparation for Common Core's sweeping new curriculum standards, Newport-Mesa Unified is facing a shortage of substitute teachers to fill the void.

Kimberly Claytor, president of the Newport-Mesa Federation of Teachers, expressed teachers' frustration when she addressed the school board during a special meeting last week.

Teachers, especially at the elementary school level, take a significant amount of time to prepare lessons in multiple subjects for substitute teachers, she said.

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The issue arises when there isn't a teacher available to fill in or the scheduled substitute cancels at the last minute. The teacher is then pulled back into his or her classroom and misses out on staff development or training, she said.

"I don't know if you all understand the impact that has on teachers," she said to the board Oct. 29.

Newport-Mesa selects substitutes from a pool of 600 Orange County teachers, an increase of 120 from last year. However, that hasn't eradicated the growing demand, said John Caldecott, executive director of human resources for the district.

The district also does not have its own designated substitutes, meaning Newport-Mesa shares substitute teachers with other districts in Orange County.

"There is no instant solution to the substitute demand," Caldecott said. "We are continuing to try to meet that demand as best we can."

Newport-Mesa has been hosting a large number of training days to prepare teachers for the new Common Core state standards

The new benchmarks phasing in this year emphasize real-life applications of classroom material and encourage students to think critically about what they're learning.

But teacher preparation means there are more days where instructors are not in class, Caldecott said.

"It gave us an unusual amount of need," he said.

Caldecott expects the demand for substitutes to grow while the district continues to implement Common Core during the next few years.

Common Core training sometimes remove teachers from an entire grade of a school. Paired with teacher absences for illness and other reasons, that creates a significant demand for substitute teachers, Claytor said.

Last week, the district was short 30 substitute teachers because — in addition to the training — teachers in grades four through six were given a day off to prepare first trimester report cards, she said.

"The district needs to be more aware of the times they set up trainings," Claytor said. "I doubt it would resolve the issue 100%, but it may put a dent in it."

Caldecott said the district is continuously recruiting additional substitutes to remedy the issue. Teachers interested in signing up should visit the district website, web.nmusd.us/subs.

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