WPS faces substitute shortage


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WPS is in search of candidates to fill substitute positions.

Anushka Patil, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Westford Public Schools is currently taking applications for new substitute teachers as a result of COVID-19 and payment discrepancies decreasing the number of people WPS has to fill these positions.

“We lost many substitutes because of the pandemic. A lot of our older substitutes didn’t want to come in with COVID-19 going on,” Westford Academy Financial Administrative Assistant Cynthia Peraner said. “On top of this, we can’t compete with neighboring towns because we pay our substitutes less. [Neighboring towns] pay one-hundred dollars or more per day.”

On Monday, Oct. 25, the Westford School Committee voted 7-0 in favor of raising the daily substitute pay from $80 to $100 for the 21-22 school year. According to school committee member Valery Young, this increase is necessary to convince potential substitutes to work in the WPS system.

“We hope that this increase [in payment] allows us to find this [necessary] support for our teachers,” Young said at Monday’s meeting.

WPS will reassess this 0.25% increase in pay next fall, working to incorporate it into next year’s school budget.

As for WA, which currently has six consistent substitute teachers, Peraner credits the DLT (Distance Learning Time) system for keeping WA in order when substitutes cannot fill in for absent teachers. In detail, DLT takes place in the cafeteria and is supervised by two to three teachers with free periods during the block.

“Usually, there are only around two to three classes in DLT with the students who already have the study period in their schedule. There are enough DLT supervisors to keep the system running smoothly, even with the extra students.” Peraner said. 

Since WA is the only school in WPS with a DLT system, WA Dean Bob Ware acknowledges that substitutes are still a necessary part of the school system. Moreover, WA, among other schools in the district, has been expanding the advertisement of these positions, with WA Principal James Antonelli providing job postings in his weekly newsletters.

“Even though we are alright because of our DLT system, the district is really feeling the effects of the absence of substitutes,” Ware said.

As for the process of becoming a substitute, applicants can reach out to the WPS Central Office for the initial documents and procedures.

“The application process is pretty accessible, and it takes about one to two weeks to get a new substitute active after they submit their application,” Ware said.

Overall, job vacancies have risen in WPS. According to Ware, COVID-19 has played a role in this situation, however, there is yet to be cause for concern.

“Job vacancies have been a little bit heavier this year, but there is no need to worry,” Ware said. “Every school faces job vacancies. Sometimes, positions are just hard to fill.”