The Beaufort County School District has a new play up its sleeve -- the "Substitute Blitz."
The district interviewed more than 70 candidates Thursday morning in an effort to bolster its pool of available substitute teachers. That pool has been shrinking in recent years so the district needs fresh faces, said Alice Walton, district chief administrative services and human resources officer.
"The attrition comes from substitutes who have become full-time teachers, subs who have moved away from the area and others who retire," she said. "So today's interviews were aimed at building our numbers back up."
Walton said the district has never actively recruited substitute teachers but hired them through recommendations. However, she said recently, the district has not been able to place new substitutes as quickly as the old ones who departed.
In fact, principals were unable to find substitutes on several occasions this fall, Walton said.
"That was a red flag for us," she said.
Of those interviewed, Walton said about 60 met the qualifications to become substitutes for the district. Those who accept will go through an orientation and training before the end of the year and could start in January.
The 71 candidates were invited for interviews after prescreening to vet their resumes and check their references, Walton said. For the first time, the district also is requiring that new substitute teachers have a four-year college degree. The state of South Carolina requires only a high school diploma.
Thursday, the candidates took a writing test and interviewed with district principals, assistant principals and master teachers.
The blitz was new for the district, Walton said, but it will now become an annual event.
Normally, candidates have been interviewed one at a time and by district-level officials. She said the new process was borne of a desire to give input to building-level administrators.
Beaufort Elementary School principal Gary McCulloch said he looks for substitute teachers who foster a caring environment for students and can pick up where the teacher left off.
"It is so important to be part of this process and interviews," McCulloch said. "You never know when something is going to happen in a building and you need a sub and you want someone who can give you seamless instruction -- you never want to lose instruction time."
Walton said expanding the available substitutes will allow administrators to get the right person in the right classroom. Principals will have more options to find a substitute that is best suited to teach a specific subject or at a certain level.
She said they are looking for substitutes in all areas and for elementary through high school, but extra emphasis was placed on the hard-to-fill positions like science and math.
Candidate Peter Dion, a former superintendent in Michigan who has retired in Beaufort County, said he was impressed by the process of interviewing with building administrators.
"It also gives us an opportunity as substitutes to see and learn what the different schools and principals are looking for," Dion said. "Substitutes are such an important part of the whole mix."
By the numbers
- 71: Number of substitutes interviewed by the school district Thursday
- 450: Approximate number of substitutes currently available to the district
- 500: Number of substitutes district hopes to have after Thursday's search
Follow reporter Sarah Bowman on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.