CLEVELAND, Ohio — A move made by the Cleveland Teacher's Union (CTU) in conjunction with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) means changes are coming to some schools starting Monday Oct. 11. The union and the district signed a memorandum of understanding which would move some in-building substitutes into long-term teaching positions.
Right now, a list from the CTU website shows 150 open teaching positions and 60 para-professional spots. That was posted on Oct. 1.
A statement from the district says there are 132 open classroom jobs.
The agreement was signed on Oct. 4 and union members were alerted of the change on Oct. 6.
Leaders from CMSD and the CTU would not go on camera. Instead, they sent statements to News 5. In an email late Friday afternoon to CTU members, president Shari Obrenski acknowledged the impact the substitute shortage has on daily life inside schools.
"We know that the continuous coverages, missed planning, missed lunches and doubling up is not sustainable," she wrote. "Nor does it lend itself to the social distancing, which is an important mitigation strategy. This is not an easy task - there are work shortages in almost every industry - but we will continue to try."
In her statement, Obrenski said everyone is trying to move through the pandemic, "to ensure the health and safety of our members and our students."
An elementary school teacher spoke with News 5. We are not using her name because she fears the of repercussions of speaking out.
She said her school could have a tough day on Monday.
"From my perspective and in my building, I believe it's going to be chaotic," she said.
A veteran teacher, she knows how important substitutes are, this year especially.
"We started the year with a building sub and from the beginning of the year - from day one - she has not been without a position every single day," she said.
The in-building substitute is a localized backup if a classroom teacher takes time away. They may be in different classes every day, but they are in the building and become familiar with patterns and students.
The new move worries the teacher who spoke to News 5.
In its statement, CMSD said this is a way to use substitutes "more effectively" and "above all, it puts the interests of children first while protecting the jobs of every one of our current substitute employees."
"They're thrown out to the wolves," she said about moving substitutes around the district.
Using substitutes to fill long-term positions is common. Usually, it's a handful of spots each year. Nothing on this scale has been done in CMSD for the last decade.
"Twenty, 30 years ago, the Cleveland schools struggled to fill positions every summer," said Dave Carney, an education law professor at Case Western Reserve University and a former CMSD board member.
He said it's good to have these long-term spots filled; kids need teachers, but for "regular teachers who are losing their reliable pinch hitter, I can understand why they don't like that."
With COVID straining school staff, the impact could be big in Northeast Ohio's largest district.
"I don't think it bodes well," the teacher said.
The district has 3,000 teachers and 580 substitutes.