Substitute Teachers Spark Controversy in Rochester Schools

Rochester, NY--Ebony Washington drops off her son, Tahash at Rochester School #3 knowing there's a degree of uncertainty waiting inside.
Her son has had a substitute teacher since his first day of sixth grade.

"There's no foundation. There's nothing to start with. There's no level ground," said Washington.

His classroom is one of more than 80 district wide with a substitute at the helm.

For years, the district has been laying off teachers at the end of each school year and than rehiring them as needed.

District officials said the problem stems from two unknown variables. First, they don't know how much money they're actually going to see from both the state and federal government. Second, is late enrollment. In fact, this year they had 900 students register for class the week before school began.

"Our enrollment change is our biggest challenge related to that volatility at the end of the year," explained Bethany Centrone, who is the Chief of Human Capital Initiatives for the district.

Centrone said the success rate among summer school students also plays a role in teacher placement.

Rochester Teacher Union President Adam Urbanski said the district is improving.

But, more needs to be done.

According to Urbanski, 150 teachers were laid off in June, and one third of them were special education teachers. They have been known to be in high demand.

"Our student population in special ed has not been reduced," Urbanski said. "So, I am not sure whether the students are getting the services that they need given the fact that so many teachers are not in the classroom."

Centrone said for the first time this year, they added a master schedule . The goal is better oversight district wide.

In the meantime, the district uses retired teachers as substitutes whenever possible.

"We pull from them so students have certified, experienced teachers in front of them even though they might not be their permanent teacher. And we're doing our best to fill those as quickly as we possibly can."

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