COVID-19 creates stresses on substitute teacher pool: Sask Rivers report

The Sask Rivers Education Centre/ Daily Herald File Photo

COVID-19 has caused some stress to the Saskatchewan Rivers Public School Division substitute teacher pool, but the division is confident it won’t have a negative impact on the upcoming year.

Superintendent of Schools Neil Finch presented the numbers as part of the division’s yearly accountability report at the regular meeting on Aug. 30. Finch told the board that there was more stress on the substitute list due to COVID-19, something education director Robert Bratvold wasn’t surprised to see.

“It showed last year, predictably, that there was some challenges in securing substitute staff,” Bratvold said. “Understandably, lots of people are away with COVID isolation and things, so that was a challenge.”

The substitute list in the division is around 200 teachers, roughly 80 of which are superannuated (retired). The division interviewed for substitutes during the year, and added 30 to the list in the fall.

The main issue they dealt with was more teachers on leave because of self-isolation orders, and substitutes not willing to be in schools because of fears related to the pandemic.

On a positive note, the division was able to add teacher candidates that finished internships to the substitute list. That allowed them to add more than 25 subs that would not have been available.

Despite the challenges, Bratvold said staff surveys were positive.

“We are on the right track in lots of ways and (there are) some areas that we can improve. It was really good stuff,” he said.

Finch’s report said staff were true professionals during a challenging year. The staff were resilient and showed HR how much they truly care for students.

One of the biggest challenges was the decrease in budget due to a drop in enrolment, which impacted staff because they make up the largest portion of the budget.

The division anticipates it will be a challenge to get adequate substitute teachers and CUPE employees again this year. However, they’re confident the division is taking strides in the right direction.

The report recommended that the board maintain current direction for staff budget to best serve students.

Report in brief

During the 2020-2021 school year there were over 537 full time equivalent teachers in the division, with 33 principals and 25 vice principals. There were 17 male and 16 female principals and 12 female and nine male vice principals. There were over 29 full time equivalent employees working out of the Education Centre.

The total budget for teachers and administration was $49.9 million. The largest percentage of money spent on salary goes to teachers at 84 percent of the total, which is unchanged from last year’s report. The division saw a modest turnover of two percent, including early resignations and retirements.

According to the report, the division is down over 24 full time equivillent teachers for 2021-2022 because of the budget allocation. However, the division will not see the full impact because of additional funding that is in place for this school year. Those funds will go towards 10 school-based literacy coaches, one division based mental health coach and one literacy coach, two social workers and three EA funded by provincial COVID-19 supports.

Saskatchewan Rivers also has a First and Second Year Program where newer teachers meet formally throughout the year. There are also formal classroom visit from the superintendent in charge, this year both first and second year has been assigned to Cory Trann.

Teacher recruitment is an ongoing and year-long focus at the division, with a focus on recruitment fairs at the University of Regina and University of Saskatchewan in January and February and other fairs if necessary.

In 2020-2021 there were over 400 employees in the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) pool with EA (Educational Associates) making up the largest number with over 240. There is also 30 employees through separate funding arrangements. There are also 24 Out of Scope personnel.

The total non-teacher employee salaries is $18.9 million. This includes accounting and payroll, computer technicians, bus drivers, caretakers, educational associates, language associates, library staff, maintenance staff, mechanics, mentors, KidsFirst project coordinators, social workers and secretaries.

The total staff in the divisions numbers 1,716 of staff shows that 75 percent were female and 25 percent male with all staff in all areas including teachers, CUPE and staff.

The age categories show that there are 24 percent in the 50 to 59 category, 22 percent in the 40 to 49 category, 19 percent in the 30 to 39 category, 16 percent in the 60 to 69 category, 14 percent in the 15 to 29 category,four percent in 70 to 79 age category and one person in the 80 to 89 category.

The division currently has 189 educators in the First Nations Metis Indigenous category which is an incrrase of 13 over 2019-2020.

The division is having strong recruitment according to the conclusion as they work with multiple universities. This year the division has 39 interns. They were able fill all French Immersion positions early and not lose them to other divisions.