Retention of substitutes a top priority


Orren Wright started substituting in Humble ISD after he retired from teaching and coach- ing. He has been in education for more than six decades. Photo by Jada Cassidy.

Jada Cassidy, Special contributor

Orren Wright still shows up to school. Inspired by his high school football coach, Wright knew exactly what he wanted to be. He taught and coached for 34 years before deciding to substitute during retirement.

“Three reasons I still sub is you make extra money and I like working with the youth,” said Wright, who has now subbed for 30 years. “The third is if I’m not working, I’m sitting at home watching TV, so I’m doing it to keep myself busy.”

Wright is one of many subs who spend almost everyday here at Kingwood Park. Despite a nationwide sub shortage impacting Humble ISD, Kingwood Park has been lucky. Administration has worked to make a comfortable workplace so subs will continue to want to return.

“I think (it helps) having someone they can go to, especially when someone’s new to your campus,” said associate principal Tiffany Major, who oversees substitutes on campus. “Then if they have a problem, knowing exactly, here’s AP’s numbers, here’s all the information so you don’t have that anxiety. I think that’s been helpful.”

Since COVID hit, statistics show 20 percent of substitute teaching jobs go unfilled each year. Humble ISD had issues too. Teachers were out sick because of the outbreaks of COVID, forcing them to quarantine. Due to most subs being older, several of them didn’t want to risk getting sick.

“If our staff got sick, they were required to be out for long periods,” Major said. “And so that caused some issues just with our usual subs not being available.”

Substitutes noticed changes after COVID. The teacher and substitute shortage often made their planning impossible. Substitutes sometimes are required to fulfill duties for more than one teacher, despite only signing up for one.

“When a job comes available and notifies me, I can accept or decline the job,” Wright said. “What has changed because of the pandemic is there is a shortage of substitutes, so we sometimes don’t get to fulfill the job that we signed up for.”

In Humble ISD, substitutes must have a minimum 60 hours or more from a college or university and pass a background check. They earn between $120-$140 each day. Each day there are about 10 subs on campus. The administration is continuously working to keep substitutes, like Wright, returning each week.

“I think you just have to continue to create a culture at your school where you’re welcoming to people,” Major said. “You make them feel, you know, like they have someone to go to and they’re going to be supported while they’re on the campus. I think if you do that, then you’ll continue to have your sub jobs filled.”