Douglas County schools struggle with substitute teacher shortage

Superior launches posts, ads; Maple approves contracted substitute teachers if needed.

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School board members in Superior and Maple discussed ways to boost the number of substitute teachers during separate board meetings recently.

In Superior, District Administrator Amy Starzecki said they are looking outside the box for ways to recruit and retain substitute teachers.

“We’re really facing a substitute shortage across our country and it’s a challenge. It was a challenge before COVID, and now it’s an even greater challenge,” Starzecki said on Monday, Nov. 8.

The shortage has put added stress on staff who are being asked to cover classes when a substitute teacher is not available. It has also impacted professional development — in the past, substitutes were able to step in to allow teachers to attend training outside staff in-service days — and could keep administrators from their regular duties.

“As a part of the sub shortage, you’ll see (licensed) district administrators in classrooms when there is a desperate need,” Starzecki said. “At least once a year, you’ll see district administrators who are licensed will go and help out with the sub shortage. That means me. That means Crystal (Hintzman, director of curriculum, instruction and assessment).”


Starzecki said ads will be placed on the home pages of each school in the district and the need for substitute teachers, known as “guest teachers” in Superior, will be highlighted in school newsletters and social media posts.

“There’s minimal requirements to become a substitute. You only need to have an AA (associate’s degree) to qualify for a license,” Starzecki said. “Many, many people are eligible to be substitutes.”

In addition to paying $150 a day, the district is focused on creating a welcoming environment. That could include offering a gift bag to substitute teachers, providing them with mentors, ongoing professional development, and a paid day for shadowing a teacher.

“That’s a great idea. I really, really like it,” said school board member Mike Meyer, a social worker at Cloquet High School. “I promise I won’t steal it for Cloquet.”

In other business:

The Superior School Board recognized students for their contributions to the community.


Superior High School sophomore Alayna DeGraef was recognized for her work on an Impact video about the dangers of vaping. The video Degraef made last year with her sister Elise, and Bailey Revering, was nominated as a finalist for the WOJ Youth Reporter Award in the international My Hero Film Festival.

Superior Middle School eighth grader Veronica Acurero was recognized for launching an Every Meal food site at the Superior-Douglas County Family YMCA that provides about 3,000 pounds of food to Douglas County residents each month.


Maple approves contracted substitutes

The Maple School Board on Monday approved giving District Administrator Sara Croney the ability to hire up to two contracted substitute teachers if needed. Last year, the district hired three.

“What we did last year with the three was paid them for a minimum of three days, used them many times all five days, and it was enough to keep us open. And that’s always the goal,” Croney said.

Board Treasurer Adam Landwehr said it worked well last year and asked why they don’t hire contracted substitute teachers every year.

It’s a budget issue, Croney said. Contracted substitutes are paid for three days of work a week — $450 — whether they work all three days or not.

Board member Shari Olson asked if the district could look into setting up an automated system like the one used by Superior to let substitute teachers know the night before they’ll be needed.


The board also gave the green light to district staff who would like to voluntarily donate sick leave days to specific co-workers, providing them with additional days off in the event of the death of a spouse or other need. They approved a change to the employee handbook that would make such donations possible.

“This is a real gift,” board member Brian Johnson said of employees who choose to donate their time.

In other business:

The Maple School Board approved a number of upcoming trips for students involved in wrestling, basketball, marketing, drama and more. The cast and crew of the one-act play, “Bad Auditions by Bad Actors,” will perform the piece for the public at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 16 in the Northwestern High School auditorium before traveling to state competition in Stevens Point Nov. 18-19.

Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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