Superintendent, district staff filling in as substitutes amid Bay Area teacher shortage

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A big concern for school districts across the Bay Area right now is the teacher shortage, including finding substitute teachers. The shortage is so bad that some districts are now asking counselors and district staff to fill in as subs.

"It's obviously not an ideal situation," Peter Feng, the communications director at South San Francisco Unified School District told reporters on Tuesday.

Feng said the district is experiencing such a shortage in substitute teachers that now district staff, including assistant superintendents and even the superintendent herself, are being used to fill in as subs.

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"We've been experiencing a staffing shortage in the areas of substitute teaching, as well as food service work, as well as preschool teachers," Feng explained.

The shortage is not unique to South San Francisco. Districts across the state are dealing with this issue. San Jose Unified School District has been asking school counselors to fill in when they can't find a substitute.

"It's volatile. That's the best word I have for it at the moment," Mary Vixie Sandy, the executive director at the Commission on Teacher Credentialing, told ABC7 News.

Sandy said in order to recruit substitute teachers some districts are raising their daily rate. "We've seen some districts have gone from $100 a day, to $200 or $280 or up to $350 a day to recruit a substitute teaching corps," she explained.

According to Sandy, the substitute teacher shortage is part of a larger, statewide teacher shortage driven, in part, by teachers who chose not to return during the pandemic.

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"The pool of substitute teachers that have been available to schools was diminished during the school closure year," Sandy said.

Cachet Berger is a former para-educator for special education students in the Oakland Unified School District. She is one of many teachers and school workers who chose not to return to the classroom at the start of this school year.

"The decision was simply, I didn't want to have exposure to 900 students and risk possibly bringing the Delta home to my son," Berger told ABC7 News.

Berger's son is 11 and not yet old enough to be vaccinated.

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Asked what would get her back to working in a classroom, she replied: "First and foremost, my son being vaccinated."

Sandy said she understands the decision Berger, and so many others have made, but is hopeful that the state will recruit more teachers. She said extra funding in this year's state budget for teacher recruitment and retention could help address the issue.

As for the substitute teacher shortage specifically, she said the Commission on Teacher Credentialing is working with the legislature to ease restrictions for both becoming a substitute teacher and for how many consecutive days a sub can work.

"We think that will be a helpful measure for school districts," Sandy said.

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