The Webster Parish School Board is researching ways to decrease its spending on substitute teachers, starting with how many days teachers are taking off for professional development.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Dan Rawls says they use a lot of substitute teachers, and he’s not concerned about the ones who have to take off due to professional development or school business.

“We seem to have a chronic problem in this parish of people wanting to take time off,” he said. “They can’t all be that sick. The problem I have is, you take that many days off, that’s that many instruction days your children don’t get; they don’t do well on the test, and then blame it on the kids. It’s a valid issue.”
Rawls is looking into how much of teachers being out is professional development and how much is actually due to illness. Finance Director Crevonne Odom says they are in a “catch 22” in that some of the requirements for receiving some federal monies is professional development, and that money has to be spent on professional development.

“We’re trying to see how we can meet the requirements for the professional development and still reduce the number of days teachers are out of the classroom,” she said.

Other factors include school business, such as if a coach has to be out because of a playoff game, or if teachers have to take students to a science fair.

In the 2016-17 budget, substitute teaching appears to have decreased, Odom says, because they aren’t paying Kelly Services a 35 percent markup. However, the number of teachers out still remains relatively the same.
“We still spend quite a bit of money on substitutes,” she said.

Rawls says this is not to say the majority of educators and staff in Webster Parish are skipping out on their duties, but there are some that appear to be problematic.

“Since I’ve been here, I can recall two instances where I have terminated people for not coming to work,” he said. “One sport person and one teacher; it was gross negligence. By that I mean, they don’t call, they don’t show up for weeks, no notice, no nothing. Then they come back and they are upset because you’re upset. It concerns me that the work ethic today is not what it used to be.

“You have many, many people here who follow the rules and rarely miss work,” he continued. “The vast majority fit that category. It’s only the handful that makes everybody else look bad. The vast majority we work with, they’re here. They’re here on weekends, holidays, they just come here.”