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Garland ISD launches 'Super Subs' initiative to help offset substitute teacher shortage

Administrators, including superintendent, at Garland ISD will substitute teach at least once per week

GARLAND, Texas — Administrators at Garland Independent School District will leave the central office and head to the classroom at least once a week for the rest of the school year.

On Monday, the 55,000 student district launched its "Super Subs" initiative which is designed to offset the shortage of substitute teachers during the pandemic and help support student learning.

Susanna Russell, the chief leadership officer in Garland, says keeping enough certified substitute teachers is not a unique challenge this year, but the extent to which the shortage has intensified this year is.

Russell says the district has seen some days when close to 45% of the requested substitute assignments are not filled. She says many of the most experienced, reliable substitutes are also ones that are considered the most at-risk for COVID-19 complications.

"They’re not feeling safe to come in and accept jobs – and so that is what has led to our shortage," Russell said.

So Russell, who started her career in education as a classroom teacher, was back in front of students Monday at Classical Center Brandenburg Middle School.

"I've taught everything from kindergarten to high school math," Russell said. "Our heart and our soul are teachers. So it’s wonderful to be back doing what we’re called to do.”

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The substitute shortage is not unique to Garland ISD.

Steven Poole with United Educators Association, which represents classroom teachers across 44 districts in Texas, says with fewer qualified substitutes, the burden to fill the gap and make it work has fallen on already overworked classroom teachers.

"We’re seeing teacher burnout now when normally we see the teacher burnout in the Spring," Poole said.

Poole said more districts will likely need to follow the lead of Garland ISD and start using district leaders as substitute classroom teachers.

"For central administration to step up and volunteer to sub in those classrooms, those are the ones that understand the reality that teachers are facing," Poole said.

Fort Worth ISD told WFAA on Monday it has identified administrative staff that could be deployed in a similar way if the need arises.

Dallas ISD said for the last six weeks it has been able to provide central staffing to schools that need the support, citing most of the help has been directed to staffing needs at the elementary level.