Musical staff

Shortage of teachers and staff add stress to county schools

With COVID-19 positivity rates across the state reaching record highs, staff shortages in schools are reaching critical levels.

Substitute teachers are in high demand and scarce, according to Glen Widmer, headmaster of Capt. Alberts Stevens in Belfast. The Republican Journal met with Widmer on January 6 to discuss the submarine shortage.

“Today we covered it all, and it’s great,” he said, but that’s not always the case. Monday, January 3, he noted, was the first time in a long time that there was no absence of teachers at the school.

CASS is not unique, he said, noting that all districts in the county are struggling to fill positions and that absences of teachers and support staff are not new either. People get sick, or their children get sick, or they have to leave for medical reasons, or even car accidents have caused absences, he said.

Then there is COVID, “which adds another layer”.

Even before the pandemic, Widmer said, substitute teachers were historically scarce. “Before COVID, we would have one day a week without a replacement,” he said. Now, he says, it’s every day that a position is unfilled. If the absence involves a music teacher, for example, they simply won’t have music that day, he said.

“Absences put a lot of stress on teachers and students,” he said. “Each person has a specific job, and when we have an absence, some of our work doesn’t get done. To fill the void, Widmer said, in some cases education technicians have been moved to run classrooms.

In regional school unit 71, he explained, each school “ideally” has a dedicated replacement who comes in every day. “This is the second year that we are doing it and we will probably continue, because finding replacements has always been a problem,” he said.

RSU 71 also uses a digital phone app to notify subscribers when an opening becomes available, streamlining the process. Once a substitute teacher is hired by the district and creates an account, the app lets them choose the school and grade level they want to work in, and notifications are sent to their phone.

Widmer said being a Surrogate is great for those who love children and is also a great way to help the District. It is a good way to try teaching for people who are considering getting into education. Widmer himself said he started his career replacing his eighth grade social studies teacher at Brunswick.

According to RSU 71 administrative assistant BettyLu Davis, those wishing to apply to be substitute teachers can complete an application at under the employment tab. Sub-teachers require two years of college education and are paid $ 130 per day, while ed tech subs require at least a high school diploma and are paid $ 112 per day.

There are substations for nurses and administrative assistants, who pay $ 128 per day, as well as vacancies for bus drivers, guards and food service contractors, who pay a base rate. hourly.

RSU 71 Superintendent Mary Alice McLean told the Journal in an email that the shortage of replacements has been a problem for years, but has been exacerbated by concerns about the coronavirus.

“A lot of our subs are older and they are at greater risk,” she said. “And more staff have had to take time off because they themselves tested positive or had to quarantine due to close contact with a positive case, or because their children’s daycare temporarily closed due to an outbreak.

“Even though more staff have had to take time off due to circumstances beyond their control, they have generally done a fantastic job coming to work during a pandemic and giving their all. “

RSU 20 Superintendent Chris Downing said the lack of available submarines was “most definitely” affecting his district. Some people who have been replaced in the past have chosen not to continue. “It’s very hard,” he added.

RSU 20 support staff, including education technicians, also resumed classes, under the supervision of teachers. “It’s a tough situation right now,” he said, “and we wonder what will happen with the new omicron variant” that will spread statewide.

For those wishing to subscribe, applications can be found at, by calling 548-6643 or by sending an email to [email protected]

According to the RSU 20 salary scale table on the district website, secretaries and administrative assistants are paid $ 97.20 per day, education technicians are paid $ 85.05 per day, nurses are paid $ 140 per day. day, substitute teachers get $ 95 per day, guards get $ 95.20 per day, kitchen workers earn $ 85.05 per day, bus drivers are paid $ 18.55 per hour, drivers of vans $ 16.81 per hour and bus helpers receive $ 12.15 per hour.

To serve as a substitute teacher in RSU 20, applicants must have two years of college education, but in some cases, including emergencies, people with less than two years of college education who have graduated from college secondaries can serve as replacements. Downing said RSU 20 has increased salaries over the past two or three years to stay competitive with other districts.

Calls and emails to RSU 3 Superintendent Charles Brown went unanswered at the time of publication.