Short on Solutions

Staff shortages continue to impact FHSD


Madi Hermeyer

Mrs. Kelly DuBois sits in the background working on filling empty sub spots while the looming substitute paperwork and badge sit in the foreground. The struggle to find subs to fill all necessary spots is one that Mrs. DuBois deals with on the daily.

Every morning when Mrs. Kelly DuBois arrives at school, one of the first things she does is run a report that determines what the rest of her morning is going to look like.

This report provides a list of what teachers in the building are out, and of those teachers, who has a filled substitute position and who does not; from there it’s Mrs. DuBois’ job to fill in those opened spots.

“I look at the teachers that have subs filled and I see what their plan times are and I start filling those open spots with the subs plan time… and then after that, I start sending emails out to teachers,” Mrs. DuBois said.

She has a system to help her out with the tedious process of finding a teacher whose plan period coordinates with the hour needing a substitute teacher.

“I have all the teachers in different address books by their plan hours,” Mrs. DuBois said. “So let’s say I have two first hours to fill, so I’ll email that address group and [ask] ‘Is anybody available?’… and so a lot of times they get filled that way.”

Having to fill in open substitute teacher positions isn’t an irregular occurrence, the only problem is that there has been an increased level of staffing shortages in the district due to the national labor shortage and most recently, an increase in absences due to the Omicron variant.

“[I have to fill in missing substitutes] every day,” Mrs. DuBois said. “A good day would be having one unfilled… I think nine [unfilled spots] has been my biggest day.”

Within the district, there is a large problem with staffing substitute teachers, paraprofessionals, and custodian positions.

At Francis Howell Central has been a decline in custodians, with some finding jobs elsewhere. Mrs. DuBois believes that many people aren’t considering the benefits offered by the district.

“I think a lot of times people don’t factor in the benefits that they get [at Francis Howell] because you get paid holiday, you get paid vacation, you get a pension, so you have to take all that into consideration,” Mrs. DuBois said. “Whereas some people just see that dollar amount and say I’m going to go work there, but they don’t have the [same] benefits when they leave [the district].”

The district’s chief human resources officer, Lisa Simpkins, is working to try to increase the number of staff members within the district.

“[The district is] implementing many different recruiting strategies from advertising differently to attending job fairs [in response to the shortage],” Mrs. Simpkins said. “Unfortunately, we don’t have the resources to increase our starting wages like private employers can.”

The district is trying to come up with creative solutions to the problem.

“We offer [custodial] jobs to students if they would like to take some jobs here, I think the district pays them $11.87/hour. We’ve also opened [custodial jobs] up to paras, and I think we’re going to open it up to teachers and administrators as well,” Mrs. DuBois said. “[The district] is doing a lot of incentives to get people and subs to come… if [someone] subs 10 days a month in our district they get a $200 bonus, and if you sub for 30 days in the district, you get a little bump in pay after 90 days in the district.”

The district is met with frustration from teachers and administrators due to the shortages, but they are doing what they can to work with the schools to get through these issues.

“It is difficult to focus on your work without staff supporting you,” Mrs. Simpkins said. “I try to be open and honest. Explain the situation we are in [and] ask them for their creative ideas and work to find temporary solutions to their issues.”