A new approach to solving your substitute teacher shortage problem.

Are you struggling to find substitutes for your districts?

If you’re at your wits end after advertising and incentives have been exhausted, you’re not alone.

Districts all across the country are struggling to find enough classified and certified subs. It’s a persistent problem that may have a solution that’s within reach. All you need is a new approach. Instead of continuously searching for subs, consider a more advanced plan for employee absences. It may even increase morale in the process.

Districts tend to be in a reactionary mode when it comes to substitutes. Finding substitutes to staff an unknown quantity of last minute absences is exhausting. All the tools you need to get in front of the problem are most likely in place and very underutilized.

Most public school employers I talk to have a “feel” for how often their staff miss work but when asked to give concrete answers they don’t have the data. Some districts will report the total dollars spent on subs as a data point but that is just one small part of the picture.

If you are serious about starting to address the issue, start by collecting more data. If you don’t have the information at all, start by collecting 60 days worth to get a good picture of what is going on. As GI Joe said “Knowing is half the battle.”

  • How many days are taken by staff? Break it down by certified and classified or by job group or job type. What are the type of days? Sick, personal, unpaid leaves of absence, work comp injury, etc…

  • Continue to break down the data to see if the days are covered by federal or state law or collective bargaining agreement or if they are just “call offs” by employees. In most instances, having a sick or personal day available is not a complete right to use the day whenever and however the employe wants.

Once you have the data take a look at who is handling your processes and procedures for leave:

  • Do you have a person or department in charge of processing leave requests?

  • Do employees know who to see when they need a leave?

  • Do employees know what type of things qualify for a leave?

  • Does your process or procedure handle the who and how a substitute is obtained to cover continuous and intermittent leave?

Next look at your processes and procedures themselves to see if they are getting all the info your organization needs to make the best decisions for all.

  • Do you ensure that all FMLA forms are completed by the doctor with specificity? See Making FMLA work for you for more information.

  • Do your job descriptions detail the essential functions and physical requirements needed to perform the job?

  • Do you include time off for Work Comp injuries and illnesses in your leave process? Do you provide light duty?

  • Does your process include conversations with the employee and their treating physician regarding what modifications are possible to keep the employee actively working?

Last, talk to staff that are missing time. Whether they take 1 day per month, a straight week unscheduled or you find a pattern of absences (e.g. after payday, the last two Wednesday’s of each month) find out in a non-confrontational setting what is going on with them. In most instances you will find they are unaware that their time may qualify for an approved leave or that continued absences not approved for leave could result in discipline. When handled well, employees will be thankful and appreciative that you took the time to care and you will have the information you need to plan ahead for sub staffing.

At Tipler Law, we know and understand that most administrators want to focus on the job of educating our future and not on scrambling to find a substitute to make it through the day. That’s why we offer the following services, tailored to your needs:

  • Creating and/or updating your processes and procedures

  • Creating and/or updating your policies, including attendance specific policies

  • Training your administrators on dealing with staff absences, leave requests, FMLA, and how to deal with attendance investigations and discipline

  • Legal assistance for any claims or complaints arising out of employee leave.

Learn more about how Tipler Law can help you find the right compliance solutions by calling 937-748-9449 or visit Tipler Law online to schedule your consultation.


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