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Missouri education leaders consider new qualifications for substitute teachers

Published: Aug. 7, 2020 at 8:55 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - While school administrators cannot know exactly how this year will unfold, they are certain of one thing- the desperate need for more substitute teachers.

“We know this year is going to be a challenge and we are going to seriously need more substitute teachers than we have in the past,” said Traci Mitchell.

Mitchell is the Director of Learning for Cassville schools. She said, like every other district, hers is trying to anticipate every challenge of conducing classes during a pandemic.

“There may be students, there may be staff that, due to an exposure, have to be quarantined for 10 to 14 days,” Mitchell said.

Dr. Paul Katnik is focused on educator quality with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. He said, right now, anyone with 60 college credit hours can be certified as a substitute teacher.

Mitchell said not only will schools need more subs, they’ll also need them longer.

“In the past, it’s been one or two days, this time it could be 10 to two weeks,” Mitchell said.

Katnik said that means subs will have to be prepared to really teach. He plans to ask the State Board of Education to add a new substitute certification option, 20 hours of online training.

“So it covers things like professionalism, classroom management, lesson design, instructional strategies, an introduction to those things to better equip someone to go in and be a substitute teacher,” Katnik said.

Mitchell said rural districts have an even harder time finding subs. She said the most qualified people to fill in are those who spent a career with kids, retired teachers.

“They’re restricted on the number of hours due to do insurance and retirement,” Mitchell said.

Missouri’s Public School Retirement System limits former educators to working no more than 550 hours in a school after they’ve retired. Katnik said that is expected to be lifted this fall.

“At our request, the governor has agreed to waive that restriction for this year,” Katnik said.

He said no matter what challenges schools across the state face this year, students are the top priority.

“That still needs to be our number one goal. We’ve got to figure out a way to not leave any kids behind,” Katnik said.

The State Board of Education will consider the new certification option for substitute teachers on August 18. Katnik said the online training will be ready as soon as it is approved and will be posted on DESE’s website.

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