Supply teachers in short supply

TLDSB scrambling to find occasional staff to replace absences

By Kirk Winter

”They don’t want to work at multiple locations during a pandemic and they don’t want to work with unvaccinated students." Stock photo, pre-COVID.

Trillium Lakelands District School Board is having difficulty finding enough available supply teachers to cover absences.

Superintendent of Human Resources for the local school board, Traci Hubbert, indicated a daily struggle by the board to fill absences by custodians, teachers, office staff and educational assistants.

“We do not have enough occasional staff available,” Hubbert said. “We have shortages on a daily basis. We are advertising aggressively on many different platforms to try to recruit.”

She said McDonalds in Muskoka is paying $20 per hour “which is only marginally less than we pay some of our employee groups.”

“It is a challenge. We have teachers on paper, but the reality is a very different thing right now.”

Hubbert told trustees that there are 285 teachers on the occasional teachers’ lists across the board. On a typical day the board has “high double-digit absences” but classes still can’t be filled.

“Many occasional staff have taken leaves,” Hubbert explained. ”They don’t want to work at multiple locations during a pandemic and they don’t want to work with unvaccinated students. We also have retired teachers on the list who can only work 50 days and teachers who have taken long-term occasional contracts (to cover a teacher’s class for an extended time period) who still are counted on the list even though they are working.”

Hubbert praised the Ontario Secondary School Teacher’s Federation for working cooperatively with the board to contact teachers on the list to see if they want to continue working as an occasional teacher.

She hopes to add an additional 45 occasional teachers to the secondary list sooner than later, pointing out that for right now secondary schools are getting by with teachers covering other teachers absences as defined in their collective agreement, but those days are dwindling in number.

“We will have a problem at elementary, covering teachers once board professional development begins,” Hubbert said. “We have a much worse time covering absences for educational assistants.”

Trustee Judy Saunders wanted clarification as to whether a teacher could just take up a spot on the supply list and not work.

“They can stay on the list and book a year of unpaid leave off,” Hubbert said. “To remain on the list (when not on a leave) they do need to work a minimum number (30) of days.”

Hubbert said that numerous administrators have volunteered their time after school to interview new occasional candidates.

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