When several Beaufort County School District principals were unable to find substitute teachers this fall, district leaders got creative. It's something too rarely seen in S.C. school districts.
As a result, the district held its first Substitute Blitz last week to replenish its ranks of substitutes to fill in when classroom teachers are out. Of more than 100 applicants, 75 passed prescreening, which included a look at their resumes, reference checks and, for the first time ever, a requirement they have a four-year degree.
During the blitz, candidates took a writing test and interviewed with district principals, assistant principals and master teachers -- giving school-level leaders input into the hiring process. That marked another first.
Ultimately, 64 were hired, said Jim Foster, district spokesman. They participated this week in training and will be required to attend the same professional development programs during the school year as teachers.
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The district is now fully-staffed with about 500 substitutes, Foster said.
It will hopefully allow the placement of substitutes in classrooms who can do more than simply oversee busy work. For example, a substitute teacher with a science degree could fill in for a science teacher and actually teach students a thing or two.
Alice Walton, district chief administrative services and human resources officer, said she got the idea for the blitz from a school district in Texas. "I took it and tweaked it to work for Beaufort County," she said.
Another blitz is planned for May, Walton said. It will be an annual event that, ideally, will increase the pairing of substitutes with subject matters they know and student age groups with whom they have previously worked.
We salute the district for using a new approach but realize not every hire will be a success.
Earlier this week, a Hilton Head Island High School substitute Spanish teacher was arrested on charges of sending inappropriate pictures to a 16-year-old student and asking the student to buy marijuana for her. She had been a long-term substitute since the start of the school year and was not hired during the blitz.
Unfortunately, no employee screening process can check for values, maturity and common sense.
Invariably, a few bad apples will take advantage of the authority entrusted to them.
That should not discourage school districts from trying new approaches to seek the best possible applicants. Many qualified, trustworthy substitutes are out there, waiting for the chance to shine.