- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 31, 2017

NEENAH, Wis. (AP) - Fox Cities public schools are having a hard time finding enough substitute teachers.

Neenah Joint School District spokesman Jim Strick told the Post-Crescent (https://post.cr/2jQYa5R ) that the district has about 20 spots to fill every day as teachers call in sick or take personal days. Filling day-to-day holes is harder than finding long-term subs when teachers take a leave of absence or have a child.

Appleton Area School District human resources director Julie King said it’s easier to fill a spot at middle or high schools, where teachers with a period to prepare lessons can step in if needed.

“It’s not as challenging at the high school level as it is in the elementaries,” King said. “Elementary is our most challenging because they have a pretty rigorous schedule.”

King said the shortage isn’t due to more teachers being sick, but retirements over the past several years that have allowed the district to hire young educators, who are more likely to take time off for maternity or paternity leave.

Kimberly Area School District human resources director Dawn Thomas said the district also is struggling to find enough replacements.

The daily rate for substitute teachers among the three districts is relatively close. Appleton pays $128, and Neenah and Kimberly pay $100.

Officials said they’ve done more in recent years to improve substitute teacher retention.

“We’ve worked a lot with our schools to make a welcoming environment for substitutes,” King said. “A lot of our schools do little special things - one bakes cookies and takes them to the substitute - to work on the retention and have people come in and feel welcome in our schools.”

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Information from: Post-Crescent Media, https://www.postcrescent.com

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