LZHS faces substitute shortage


Photo by Sadie Good

Debbie Gummerson, substitute teacher of over 10 years, works at a desk in an LZHS classroom. Gummerson, who was originally employed as a full time English teacher at LZHS, has returned to substitute teach in District 95 after her retirement and has worked hard to help the district through the substitute shortage since students and staff returned to in-person school full-time in the fall of 2021.

Many substitute teachers across the United States have been leaving their positions at rapid rates since the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an article by the New York Times. Lake Zurich District 95 is not an exception to this issue.

According to Erin DeLuga, principal, the shortage has been an issue since the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, and has continued even after conditions at LZHS have improved.
Helen Rzasa, substitute coordinator, believes that this could be due to the recent high retirement rates of District 95’s older substitute teachers.

“LZHS has had a few long term subs that served us well for many years, but some of those decided to retire permanently [and the district needs to hire replacements],” Rzasa said.

Additionally, Andrew Lambert, assistant principal, believes that there are some deterrents keeping potential substitutes from working for District 95. One of these, Lambert says, is the pay.

“There’s been an issue with neighboring districts that may provide different incentives for their substitutes than we do,” Lambert said.

To solve this specific issue, the district has raised their pay, which, according to Rzasa, has “helped tremendously” in the hiring process. Another reason for the shortage, DeLuga says, may be the increase of in-school violence, both nationwide and at LZHS specifically.

“In my opinion, school violence across the nation can be a deterrent for some people,” DeLuga said. “But [school safety and security] has been the largest focus of our district throughout this school year [and we will continue working to reduce violence at LZHS and resolve this issue].”

As the District 95 administration works towards a more permanent solution, they have been using internal substitution as a quick fix.

“If I’ve exhausted all the possibilities, I’ll email another teacher and they are [always] happy and willing to give up their free periods,” Rzasa said.

Debbie Gummerson, substitute teacher of 10 years at LZHS, believes that interdepartmental substitution, specifically, is the best way to go.

“If I can teach it, I can substitute for it,” Gummerson said. “But [recently], I’ve had to fill in for other classes [that I’m not as well equipped for], which has definitely taken some getting used to.”

As substitutes adjust to these changes, administration is working to put as much energy into valuing them as they do into finding new hires.

“There’s always work that can be done,” Rszasa said.“And I know that [the district] is doing all that they can [to fix this issue].”