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Sussex Tech looks to revamp substitute teacher system

School districts throughout the state struggle to attract enough substitute teachers to fill vacancies. One high school is trying a new approach.


Sussex Tech High School is changing the way it hires substitute teachers in an attempt to give students and subs more consistency — and adapt to the statewide substitute teacher shortage.

Rather than hiring most subs on a day-to-day basis like many districts throughout the state, Sussex Technical School District plans to hire six to ten permanent substitute teachers to rotate through the four to six teacher absences officials say the high school tends to see each day. The subs will be part-time employees, guaranteed roughly four days of work per week. 

Superintendent Stephen Guthrie says the district tried advertising for substitute teachers online, but that did not result in the pool of subs Sussex Tech needs.

“We’ve had 320 vacancies over the course of the whole year. The large majority of those were covered by substitutes, but a handful of those we actually had to pull other teachers from their planning mod, or administrators had to cover the classes," he said. "So we definitely need to rectify that situation.”

Guthrie says Sussex Tech High School has seen 31 different substitute teachers so far this school year. He hopes the new model will provide more consistency.

“Teachers will be familiar with [the subs], students would be familiar with them, and they would have a better idea of the curriculum we’re trying to deliver to students," he said.

Some school administrators and officials from substitute teacher hiring agencies attribute the state-wide shortage in part to the currently low unemployment rate. 


Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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