Are Substitute Teachers Considered Employees? How To Manage Your Substitute Staff

substitute teachers are employees of ess

Substitute teachers are a special group of educators that play an important role in school districts across the country. A crucial subset of education professionals and one that no district could succeed without, substitute teachers play a vital role in classroom instruction. But are substitute teachers considered employees? What kind of management do substitute staff require from their district, and is there a way to simplify the management process in order to conserve resources?

District Best Practices for Employee Management

School districts provide for and manage their employees, supporting their success and well-being. A range of benefits and supports keep employees engaged in the instructional mission and help school districts retain them long-term. Some of the key supports include:

  • Wages and fringe benefits. The single most important factor to many employees is the compensation they receive for their work. Offering a competitive wage and benefits package is key to attracting and retaining engaged, highly qualified individuals. Frequently, benefits will include health insurance and retirement contributions. Other unique offerings such as tuition reimbursement and on-site childcare may prove attractive to educators, as well.  
  • Collegiality and personal connection. A workplace where one feels comfortable and supported is one to which people look forward to reporting. An atmosphere where friendly faces and personal connections allow educators to share ideas, gain support, and develop reciprocal respect helps them develop a sense of belonging. Shared responsibility and collaboration nurture strong collegial relationships.
  • Professional development. Part of effectively managing employees involves facilitating their personal and professional growth. Helping them create a detailed development plan encourages lifelong learning and also allows students to benefit from their expanding knowledge and skills. Providing coaching and evaluating performance keeps employees on the path to continuous improvement.
  • Corrective action. An infrequent but necessary part of managing employees involves corrective action. When employees are not meeting intended targets or do not conform with district policies, there must be a process for communication to bring attention to the problem and motivate change. The process should be progressive, increasing incrementally if goals for improvement are not met. Corrective action is most effective when conducted by a manager with an ongoing relationship who has the ability to monitor and provide the needed support.
  • Recognition. An important aspect of feeling valued in the workplace involves recognition for effort and accomplishments. When managers regularly recognize their employees, they motivate them and their peers to continue to strive for excellence. Feeling appreciated is important for long-term job satisfaction.
  • Incentives and perks. Besides recognition for a job well done, incentives and perks help employees feel that they are valued. From classroom supplies to an occasional lunch, thoughtful gestures increase personal and professional satisfaction.

Challenges of Managing Substitute Teachers

Managing employees requires oversight, supervision, and occasional disciplinary intervention. But whereas teachers report to their building administrators, substitutes most often report to a different supervising administrator each day. The variable and temporary nature of substitute teachers’ travels from classroom to classroom and building to building complicates their management. When a problem does occur, an appropriate follow-up may be harder to achieve.

As valued employees critical to your educational mission and essential to day-to-day operations, you do not want your substitute teachers to fall through the cracks. Missing out on any of the key perks from which district employees benefit would be unfortunate. However, due to the variability of substitute teaching, short-term assignments, and multiple job sites, these benefits can be hard to manage effectively.

A centralized substitute teacher office is one solution to managing substitute teachers. Staffed by human resources professionals, this office oversees those critical functions, even in districts with an automated absence management system. But providing this oversight may challenge the resources of small and large districts alike.

Increasingly, schools are choosing to partner with an education staffing agency when approaching substitute teacher management. Whether turning over the supervision of their existing substitute teacher pool or contracting an agency to hire, train, and manage it from scratch, this option is becoming one that increases both efficiency and cost-effectiveness. It relieves the district’s HR office of the complex task of managing and maintaining this critical group of employees.

Best Solutions for Managing Substitute Teachers

After recruiting and hiring substitute teachers, the supervision of this specialized subset of district employees presents some significant challenges. Unable to manage short-term substitute teachers at the building level due to their transience, school districts must continue to offer centralized management and support at the district level. An increasingly attractive option for long-term management that includes all the necessary benefits and supports substitute teachers deserve involves contracting a staffing management company. Education-exclusive agencies provide that needed support system by building relationships, encouraging substitutes to develop a plan for ongoing professional development, and providing everything from corrective action to recognition and incentives. They have the resources to provide constructive feedback and to nurture this important group of education professionals.

For a better solution to managing substitute teachers, contact ESS, the experts in education staffing. With the resources and experience needed to prepare this special group of teachers for the job and retain them long-term, ESS can help to not only recruit, hire, and train your substitute staff, but also provide ongoing management.