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Sunday, Aug. 16, 1998

Substitute teachers at premium

CCISD has plenty, but smaller districts lacking

By AMY STRAHAN
Staff Writer

   They are called upon at a moment's notice. They must jump into a classroom with little preparation.
   They are the substitute teachers.
   And, as usual, there aren't enough of them for many school districts.
   ``We could always use more,'' said Penny Slingerland, an administrative assistant for Port Aransas Independent School District. The district's list of substitutes has dwindled to four. Usually there are at least 30 potential substitutes available for the district's 46 teaching positions, Slingerland said.
   The Corpus Christi Independent School District has been more fortunate with its pool of substitutes being replenished once or twice a month as new applications pour in, said Betty Mounts, who manages the substitute office for CCISD.
   ``We're in good shape,'' she said.
   Each day in the CCISD, there are an average of 330 absences to be filled, Mounts said. The district keeps its pool of subs at about 600 with people like Cheryl Bartlett, who said that on her first day to substitute teach, she was faced with a small classroom of deaf children in the CCISD.
   She didn't know much sign language, and said she was a little intimidated at first.
   ``But now it's old hat,'' Bartlett said, adding that she gets a call to substitute teach almost every day.
   At West Oso Independent School District, administrators are keeping their fingers crossed that more substitutes will surface as the school year gets under way.
   ``We are in dire need of some,'' said Grace Garza, personnel officer for West Oso ISD. ``We placed ads with the universities around town -- we usually get a lot from that.''
   For 149 teachers at West Oso ISD, only 25 substitutes are available so far. The district tries to keep its pool at about 50, Garza said.
   ``We'll be all right,'' she added, noting that advertisements never fail to attract more applicants.
   In Flour Bluff, it's a lack of bus drivers that has the district stretched thin, said Roy Torres, assistant superintendent for Flour Bluff Independent School District. The district is about five drivers short.
   Until the positions are filled, Torres said, the school's maintenance workers, who are certified to drive buses, will be driving the routes.
   James Koonce, personnel director for Aransas County Independent School District, said his district is among those searching for more substitutes.
   The number of substitutes available always dwindles as the year wears on, he said.
   ``We do always need more substitutes -- we never have enough,'' Koonce said. Right now, the district has about 60 names for the year, but with roughly 300 teachers in the district, Koonce said he'd like to have as many as 100 substitutes at the start of the fall.
   By March or April, the number of substitutes available usually dwindles to about half of those at the beginning of the year as they find other jobs, he said.
   Linda Bridges, president of the local chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, said qualified substitutes are often hard to find.
   ``If we could have more substitutes on the list who are certified or retired teachers, you'd have a better chance of continuity of instruction going on,'' Bridges said. ``The important thing is to have individuals who understand what they're getting into.''
   She added it's not an easy job.
   ``The better qualifications a person has and the more experience, the better able he or she is to perform in that situation,'' she said.

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