CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The West Virginia Senate will vote on a bill Wednesday that would require certain school administrators to serve as substitute teachers for three days each year.
The bill would exempt county superintendents but would require anyone with a teaching or administrative certificate who is classified as a “supervisor” or a “central office administrator” to serve as a substitute teacher. In most districts this would include assistant and associate superintendents, special programs coordinators and transportation directors.
West Virginia, particularly in rural counties, often faces critical shortages of substitute teachers. There is even a section of state code devoted to declaring the shortage and allowing retired teachers to continue to work as substitutes.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Larry Edgell, is a retired math teacher who still substitutes on occasion.
Edgell said the bill gives local school districts more resources with which to fill absences.
“In a lot of counties there are just no certified substitutes,” Edgell said.
Edgell said that often when he was teaching a teacher would be absent and no substitute could be found. The school would then be forced to distribute that teacher’s students among other classes, disrupting multiple classes, not just the one with the absent teacher.
The state Board of Education does not keep data on substitute teacher shortages.
Christine Campbell, a spokeswoman for the American Federation of Teachers in West Virginia, said that in Pocahontas County, where she used to teach, a shortage of substitutes is a constant problem.
“It’s certainly an issue in rural counties and for supervisors or administrators to be available for that is great,” Campbell said.
The bill would also put administrators and supervisors in direct contact with students, a point emphasized both by Campbell and by the other major group representing teachers in West Virginia.
“I think teachers in general think that it would be a good thing to have someone come and spend a few days in their shoes because in general people tend to forget what it’s like,” said Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association. “Even in the five years I’ve been out things have changed in the classroom, so it’s always good to get a refresher.”
Edgell agreed that supervisors should spend some time in the classroom.
“The main thing is to get them back in the school to see what their policies are doing in the schools,” Edgell said. “Get them back to the basis of education.”
The bill would likely save the state money by reducing the number of substitutes that must be hired, although there were no estimates available as to how much it would save.