Local News

District Freezes Substitute Hiring

SEBRING - Those seeking a part-time teaching position need not apply at this time to the School Board of Highlands County, which has a hiring freeze on substitute teachers. The temporary hiring freeze was implemented after the district processed its last group of newly-hired substitutes in October. "At that time we assessed our needs and we had an abundance of subs ... so we felt to give everybody a fair availability to work that we were going to freeze the processings," said Maribeth Colicci, human resources clerk. The school board's Web site declares "absenteeism is exceptionally low at this time."
Teacher absences have been down quite a bit this year, Colicci said. "I'm not really sure why; I'm hoping we're just all healthy." Woodlawn Elementary bookkeeper Becky Travers said only two substitute teachers were needed at her school on Thursday. "This year we've really averaged fewer subs for Woodlawn Elementary," she said. "We have fewer employees this year so that makes a difference and there haven't been as many workshops that pull the teachers out of the classroom." Sun 'N Lake Elementary School Principal Diane Lethbridge also said that at the district level, there have been fewer workshops that have pulled teachers out of the classroom. "We have been basically going along as usual, but I do feel that there is less absenteeism," she said. "The teachers are here and they are on task. It's really made a difference in student performance." Though the minimum substitute teacher qualifications call for a high school diploma or GED, Lethbridge looks to hire subs with better qualifications, especially in long-term situations. A recently retired certified teacher will fill in for an upcoming six-week maternity leave. "When we need a long-term sub I try to find a certified teacher if at all possible and we have several on our sub list who are recent retirees who have a lot of experience," Lethbridge said. Some of the substitutes previously taught at her school, Lethbridge said, so when they come into the classroom they know the culture of the school and they are able to step right in. The district has a total of 448 instructional and non-instructional substitutes to fill in as needed at its 17 schools and the district office. The district averaged 82 employee absences each day, which required a substitute, for the first half of the 2008-09 school year. "We are down about 10 a day from last year," Colicci said. Teachers get six sick days and four personal days each year. The sick days can be carried over from year to year. At retirement, employees receive a payout for any unused sick days.

Highlands Today reporter Marc Valero can be reached at 863-386-5826 or mvalero@highlandstoday.com.