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Finding Substitute Teachers Challenges Tulsa Schools

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When employees call in sick on any given day, most businesses can manage without too much difficulty. But when the employee is a teacher, the absence has to be covered quickly. The News on Six has learned that finding enough qualified substitute teachers is a constant challenge for most school districts.

Dixie Lee began substitute teaching for Tulsa Public Schools last year because she wanted to help out the district her taxes support. She says it's hard work, but there are plenty of rewards. "The reason I wanted to do this is I thought it was a challenge," said Lee. "I thought it was something I could do, that I could do well. I'm here because I want to be here. Believe me, it's not for the money."

Tulsa Public Schools could use a lot more substitutes like Lee. Bill Naftzger, chief human resources officer for Tulsa Public Schools, says on any given day, the district has about a hundred absences for a variety of reasons. "It makes it very difficult to match all those positions with the subs that are out there," said Naftzger.

Substitute teachers must have at least a high school diploma. Substitutes with teacher certification make $50 a day. Regular substitutes make $45 a day.
There are restrictions on the number of workdays allowed per year. Naftzger says it's difficult to find qualified subs, particularly in math and language areas. Two employees work full-time coordinating substitute needs.

Lee says she doesn't allow lax discipline just because she's temporary help. This is a common problem the substitute teachers encounter. She says it definitely isn't for everyone. "You have to have a lot of tolerance," Lee said. "You have to be able to give and take. You have to know when it counts and when it does not count, and know the difference."

Naftzger says the job's strongest selling point is the opportunity to help educate children. "They can get involved in their local school just as a substitute. They can work in those classrooms and really help benefit their neighborhood and benefit Tulsa. "
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