Superintendents debate substitute bill


Special to the Herald-Star

A Senate bill approved by West Virginia lawmakers requiring school administrators to substitute teach at least three days during a school year produced mixed reactions from local superintendents.

Senate Bill 80 mandates that all administrators with a teaching certificate spend time in the classroom. The bill exempts superintendents and those without a teacher’s license.

Superintendent of Hancock County Schools Suzan Smith declined to comment on the bill, and Brooke County Superintendent Kathy Kidder was unavailable for comment on Monday.

Superintendent of Wetzel County Schools Diane Watt said her district’s central office staff – including the assistant superintendent, director of special education and directors of elementary and secondary curriculum – would be among those called into the classroom when substitutes are not available.

According to the West Virginia Department of Education, the average statewide pay rate for a substitute teacher in 2009-10 was $123.47 a day.

“You’re going to lose more effectiveness of the county personnel if they have to dedicate a full day” in the classroom, Watt said. “Their workload isn’t going to decrease even though they’ll be in the classroom for a full day. I don’t see how the quality of the work is not going to suffer.”

Watt suggested making it easier for schools to address employees with high numbers of absences would be a more effective way to deal with the need for more substitute teachers. She said that while the bill might save the county some money, it gives the impression that administrators do not work hard when they have plenty of duties already.

Superintendent of Tyler County Schools Robin Daquilante said she thinks the bill is a good idea, but she said administrators in Tyler County already spend a significant amount of time in the classroom. Principals, for example, already are required to spend a period teaching in each classroom in their school once a semester.

“The conversations between our central office staff is they don’t have a problem getting into the classroom,” Daquilante said. “They’re looking forward to it because we all started out as teachers and it’s fun to pull your sleeves up and do what teachers are doing.”

Daquilante said it was estimated that putting administrators into the classroom would save Tyler County about 12 days of pay for a substitute teacher each year.

Fred Renzella, retiring superintendent of Marshall County Schools, said he views using every resource to keep a classroom supervised and safe as “a smart thing to do.” He added that keeping administrators in touch with the classroom is another reason he approves of the bill.

“It’s an enhancement,” Renzella said. “With students, the best thing we can do is project-based learning. We connect learning with a project to see the reality and significance.”

Superintendent of Ohio County Schools Dianna Vargo also said Ohio County administrators often spend time in classrooms already, but she said she would wait to comment on the bill until it is signed into law by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.