Facing shortages, Upshur schools relax qualifications for substitute teachers

BUCKHANNON – Upshur County schools, as well as many other county school systems in West Virginia, have been experiencing a shortage of teachers in positions of critical need such as those in math and science.

On Friday, during a special session of the Upshur County Board of Education, members voted to approve a policy that would address those critical needs. Policy 5025, which the BOE unanimously approved during Friday’s virtual meeting, allows for the employment of certain retired teachers and individuals with associate degrees as restricted substitute teachers.

By lowering the qualifications to be a substitute, school officials hope the policy will help fill the current vacancies.

During the meeting, which BOE Vice President Katie Loudin presided over, assistant superintendent of schools Dr. Debra Harrison said there had been “quite an issue filling substitute positions.”

“As of October, with the new Policy 5202, we are allowed to ask for individuals with associate degrees to be permitted to be substitutes in our classrooms,” Harrison reported. “We did send a note to State Superintendent of Schools W. Clayton Burch and he okayed that. The next step is for the board to approve that policy.”

School board member Kristi Wilkerson noted that Buckhannon-Upshur High School is implementing a pathway for students to earn an associate degree along with their high school diploma. She asked if a student could receive an associate degree from B-UHS and then go right back teaching their peers.

“Is that what I am hearing?” Wilkerson questioned.

Harrison said she did not know exactly how that would work, but said, “Typically in teacher preparation, you do not let someone go back into their home school immediately. But if someone graduated from the high school, I do not see why we could not use them at the elementary level.”

Upshur County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Sara Lewis Stankus said several West Virginia counties have initiated similar polices.

“The state is working on new, innovative ways to get people into the workforce in schools,” Stankus said.

Harrison said the local Policy 5025 can be approved in just one reading because it is “updating a West Virginia Board of Education Policy 5202.”

“The documentation we have added to our Policy 5025 refers to all of the different components of hiring associate credentialed individuals as substitutes,” Harrison said. “The guidelines are very specific, and they must have 18 hours of professional development, and they get that through West Virginia Learns. The permit is only good for one year and they must renew it each year, and each renewal requires 12 additional hours – it is specifically laid out by the state and again, we just added the language from the state policy to our policy.”

Upshur County BOE President Tammy Samples, who joined Friday’s meeting a few minutes after it began, made the motion to approve Policy 5025, which was seconded by member Dr. Greenbrier Almond. The school board voted unanimously to approve Policy 5025.

The next regular meeting of the Upshur County Board of Education is slated for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 16 at Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School. There will be an informational public forum about the new schools bond initiative, Upshur County Schools’ Vision of the Future, at 5 p.m. at B-UMS directly before the BOE meeting.

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