WILLIAMSON – Brandon Wolford, President of the Mingo County Education Union (WVEA), approached the Board of Education (BOE) at Tuesday’s meeting to discuss the use of retirees in substitute positions.
Wolford said, “Retirees are supposed to be used as a last resort. I have seen instances in the county where this procedure isn’t being followed.”
According to the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) OIEP Administrator’s Hiring Guide Section III concerning substitutes and other part- time employment it states, “Some of you may have retired teachers as your substitute teachers. This is an allowable and legal practice provided that a retiree does not work in excess of 140 days in a fiscal year, the retiree is the only substitute available for that position. Retirees should be used only as a last resort.”
Dr. Richard Duncan,Human Resources Director for Mingo County Schools, explained that substitute teachers fall into three categories. They are comprised of retirees, individuals that hold Bachelor degrees that aren’t in education and individuals with education degrees that have not been hired full time.
Wolford’s argument is that retirees are being employed in positions throughout the county instead of qualified individuals just beginning their teaching careers.
“There are 12 retirees working around the county and I know people that are members of my organization that have yet to be offered a full time position. Some are as equally qualified as the ones that are in these positions,” Wolford said.
“I would like to ask the question: Why are we doing this? Why are we paying a retiree double what we could be paying a young substitute to fill this position,” Wolford asked.
Duncan explained that the Board has a shortage of available substitutes. “One of the reasons we have issues with substitutes is we have a small number of folks to choose from in our substitute pool. Everyone who wants to work is already out there. We are trying to get new people in and that has been part of the challenge,” Duncan said.
Wolford also argued that principals are not keeping the required logs documenting non- retiree subs that have declined to work at that school.
“Principals are supposed to keep a log if they do not put someone in a position. They are supposed to keep a record of who they offered it to, who didn’t accept and it is supposed to be available at all times. I’m not seeing that going on in our county,” Wolford said.
The OIEP Hiring Guide states, “Principals and lead teachers must keep a log of those non- retiree subs that have refused work when a retiree works as a substitute teacher. This log needs to be available at all times if asked.”
Under certain circumstances, a retiree is allowed to be placed in a full time position. Wolford said, “I have found instances where a retiree is allowed to be placed in a full time position and that is if a critical need plan is in place. A critical need plan should be done before any retirees are hired. To my knowledge, there is not a critical need plan in place. If there is one, it is supposed to be updated every year and it is effective for one year.”
“Whenever a critical need plan is in place they are supposed to leave this position posted at all times for a certified applicant to apply at any time,” Wolford continued.
This argument can also be found in the OIEP Hiring Guide. The Hiring Guide explains, “If you believe you will have a retiree substitute more than 140 days in one fiscal year, that sub can complete an affidavit of critical need. This is a process in which the OIEP swears and affirms that no other substitute is available and we are in need of the retiree’s services for an extended period of time.”
Duncan explained that as the 30th day of school approaches, the county is working on establishing a critical need plan. “Since 30 days has approached we are going to determine critical need areas. We are seeing needs in areas like PE, Art, and Social Studies,” Duncan said.
Wolford stresses that he is not attacking those in higher positions but working to best serve employees and students. “I want people to know we are here to help and for the overall good of the students and employees, rather than just being out to get those in the higher positions that aren’t following the law,” Wolford explained.
For more information on hiring practices visit the West Virginia Department of Education website at https://wvde.state.wv.us/.
(Courtney Pigman is a news reporter for the Williamson Daily News. She can be contacted at [email protected], or at 304-235-4242, ext. 2279.)