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Education
Learning Curve is WKSU’s reporting initiative examining the past, present and future of K-12 public education in Ohio.

CMSD Weathered Substitute Shortages This Year, Hopeful for an Easier Fall

Cleveland Metropolitan School District bus
Annie Wu
/
ideastream
Cleveland Metropolitan School District has roughly 550 substitute teachers on its roster, according to Chief Talent and Equity Officer Lori Ward. The number of substitutes in the district's pool hasn't been the problem, rather many haven't accepted assignments because of potential exposure to the coronavirus.

The Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) faced big obstacles when it came to substitute teacher availability during the spring months, after students moved from fully remote to hybrid learning.

The problem, said CMSD’s Chief Talent and Equity Officer Lori Ward, was not how many substitute teachers were available; there are roughly 550 on the district’s roster. It was about substitutes turning down assignments, in large part because they didn’t want to be exposed to COVID-19.

“Many individuals did not want to risk the day-to-day type of substitute assignments. And that's understandable,” Ward said. 

CMSD worked with the Cleveland Teachers Union to assign one or two substitutes to each building, depending on staff size, to help with contact tracing, Ward said. 

 The district was also very cognizant of not putting people in “harm’s way” by having a substitute go into “Building A on Monday and Building B on Tuesday.”

Some substitutes did not want to take on longer-term assignments, like filling in for teachers on maternity leave, according to Ward.

The staffing shortages were met by the district’s rank and file: Teachers would fill in for teachers, and the building substitutes would take on other assignments, Ward said.

“And we made it work,” she said. “You know, our principals and our teachers in buildings really made it work. It was definitely one of the most unique years I’ve ever seen.”

With the academic year coming to a close May 26 for most students, Ward said CMSD is already staffing for the 2021-2022 school year, and applications are open for teaching and substitute teachings positions on the district website.

With more and more Ohioans getting vaccinated, Ward believes the availability of substitute teachers will not be an issue next fall. The training and professional development being offered will also help with recruitment, she said.

“We believe that our professional development, that we're doing from a curriculum standpoint and a technology standpoint, is very attractive to the substitutes that want to continue to learn and hone their personal skills,” Ward said.
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