San Jose school districts struggle to find teachers
San Jose school districts have had difficulty filling teacher roles post-pandemic. Photo courtesy of San Jose Unified School District.

    The lack of full-time and substitute teachers in San Jose schools remains problematic even as the COVID-19 pandemic wanes.

    Several San Jose school districts have elected to increase substitute teacher pay, and one created a new position to fill teaching holes left by the pandemic. Even those incentives are failing to attract educators back into the classroom.

    “The pool is very shallow,” Hilaria Bauer, superintendent of Alum Rock Union School District, told San José Spotlight. “Teachers moved out of the area or retired. The pandemic just exacerbated that.”

    To temporarily resolve the problem, districts such as Alum Rock, San Jose Unified School District and East Side Union High School District have administrators stepping into the classrooms.

    At Alum Rock, site administrators and academic services employees are the first line of support. If necessary, directors, coordinators, the assistant superintendent and superintendent teach classes. Bauer said it astounds her how many substitute teachers the district has lost.

    “There have been days when we are not able to find up to 24 sub teachers,” she said.

    Pre-pandemic, the district had about 125 substitute teachers on its list. Post-pandemic it has 70 active substitutes. Many have retired, moved or are scared of returning to in-person learning, Bauer said. She’s reluctant to have counselors teach because students need their support.

    “There are a lot of mental health needs,” she said, adding that East San Jose was the epicenter of the pandemic and its families face daily challenges.

    In early October, San Jose Unified School District, facing a crisis with the loss of half its substitute teachers, turned to its specialized personnel including counselors, intervention specialists and instructional coaches, who sign up to teach four days every four weeks. Since the pandemic, about half of its previous 250 substitute teachers were available in September, SJUSD spokesperson Jennifer Maddox said.

    This isn’t the first time specialized personnel have taught classes, according to Jacqueline Murphy, director of human resources at SJUSD. As part of their contracts, these individuals can switch positions and work as substitute teachers for 10 days during an emergency.

    “We are working to allocate our resources as best we can to meet students’ needs both instructionally, as well as around their social and emotional health,” Murphy said.

    The district also implemented a new plan with hopes to attract more substitute teachers. The Teaching Permit for Statutory Leave pays subs $300 per day to fill a teacher’s entire leave. To qualify, substitute teachers must have a bachelor’s degree with relevant undergraduate coursework and take 45 hours of training.

    Post-COVID, about 70% of SJUSD substitute teachers earn $225 or $300 per day.

    Even with the increase in pay, Murphy said not all their substitute teachers want to return due to pandemic-related challenges. Plus, the district is erring on the side of caution regarding possible COVID symptoms. People can’t come to school with sniffles or a cold without a negative COVID test, she said.

    Since schools reopened, local districts find themselves competing for full-time and substitute teachers and mental health professionals, forcing an increase in daily substitute teaching rates.

    At East Side Union High School District, substitute teachers earn $150 per day. The district has not changed its pay rates since the pandemic and plans to discuss increases at a Thursday board meeting.

    “There’s a general teacher shortage and also there’s fewer people entering the system,” said Superintendent Glenn Vander Zee. “We also have a number of subs within our system who still are not quite comfortable returning to the in-person environment.”

    Like the other districts, Tom Huynh, ESUHSD associate superintendent of human resources, said they too call on counselors, advisors or other certificated employees to fill in. Onsite principals, vice principals and administrators may teach in classrooms as well, he said.

    “We’re hoping and expecting that as we progress through the year and the pandemic wanes, we’ll get those hesitant subs to come back,” he said.

    For now, the future remains unclear and the needs are immediate. These districts are counting on that bump in pay to ease the classroom teaching shortage.

    So far, however, “the needle has moved very little,” Bauer said.

    Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected]

    Substitute teacher pay in three San Jose school districts

    San Jose Unified School District

    • Pre-pandemic, substitute teachers earn $135 per day
    • Post-pandemic, rates increased to $150 per day
    • Post-pandemic, long-term substitute teachers who work 25 to 30 days earn $225 per day
    • Long-term certified teachers earn $300 per day
    • Substitute teachers with a teaching permit for statutory leave earn $300 per day
    • Early Bird jobs pay $225 per day

    Alum Rock Union School District: Elementary Schools

    • Pre-pandemic earn $150 per day
    • Post-pandemic earn $200 per day
    • Retired teachers and residential substitutes working only in Alum Rock earn $240 per day

    Alum Rock Union School District: Middle Schools

    • Pre-pandemic earn $160 per day
    • Post-pandemic earn $200 per day
    • Retired teachers and residential substitutes working only in Alum Rock earn $240 per day

    East Side Union School District*

    • Substitute teachers earn $150 per day
    • District retirees earn $175 for short-term assignments, $225 per day for long-term assignments
    • Short-term substitute teachers earn $170 after 20 days of service for multiple assignments
    • Long-term substitutes make $200 per day, based on five periods for 20 consecutive days per assignment

    *Board plans to discuss increases at its Nov. 4 meeting

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