Back to school is already underway in some North Texas school districts, including in the Plano, Garland and Kennedale Independent School Districts.
And while great efforts have been made to ensure attendance for the tens of thousands of students in those schools, as well as others across the area that start back later this week and a week from today, many of the teachers who greet those kids on day one will be substitutes.
The reasons for the substitutes vary, including the position not yet having a full-time teacher on staff, but the results are similar for school districts in the region. And finding a quality substitute teacher can be much easier said than done.
"It is a challenge to fill all our open substitute positions, and Frisco ISD has dealt with an ongoing substitute shortage," said Meghan Cone, a district spokeswoman.
Last month, the Frisco ISD board approved the hiring of an outside staffing agency — ESS South Central, LLC — to help ensure that any teacher absences are filled. The district signed a $2.2 million 1-year contract with the goal of achieving a 95% fill rate for its classrooms.
The Richardson Independent School District has partnered with another organization, Swing Education, to staff its classrooms with quality substitute teachers.
Swing Education has 189 substitutes who can choose from potential positions at 118 schools in North Texas. Currently, the Richardson ISD is the only public school system Swing Education has partnered with, but it has relationships with the popular Uplift Education and A+ Charter Schools systems.
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Elissa Mapp is one of the substitutes who works with Swing Education. Mapp has a professional background in health care, having worked previously in an ophthalmologist’s office, and sought out substitute teaching as a means to gain classroom experience in a wide range of settings.
Since she started working with Swing Education last spring, Mapp has already substitute taught at the pre-kindergarten level, kindergarten, first, second and third grades, as well as at the middle school and high school levels.
"I have been in situations where the school was in dire need of substitute teachers and they were extremely grateful for the ones that would do long-term commitments because they knew that they would have enough teachers in place to be able to facilitate the school for their students," Mapp said about her experience as a substitute.