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  • Bridget Valverde

NKSD needs subs!

Last night, the North Kingstown School Committee approved an increase in the amount we pay substitute teachers. This is an important step to strengthen our schools, because the truth is we don't have enough substitute teachers.

We can’t have great schools without great teachers. And we are so lucky here in North Kingstown to have dedicated, talented, wonderful full-time staff. They go above and beyond for our kids in “normal” school years, and have been doing an incredible job in a difficult situation throughout this pandemic.

But teachers are human, and they have lives just like everyone else. They get sick, they have family emergencies — and our kids still need and deserve quality instruction when a teacher has to be out.

That means we can’t have great schools without great substitute teachers.

So I’m calling on our community to pitch in. If you’ve ever thought about becoming a substitute teacher, our schools need you now more than ever.

North Kingstown Schools have not been immune to the staffing shortages we’re seeing in so many industries right now. While each of our schools has been creative in responding to the substitute shortage, it has been disruptive to our students and stressful for our teaching professionals. Raising the rate we pay subs to a level that will bring us in line with our neighboring towns will help us attract the support we need.

When there aren’t enough subs, children in elementary schools miss out on art, music, library and PE as those special area teachers are often reassigned to fill in for classroom teachers. Classroom teachers get stretched thin, losing out on planning and prep time when they are forced to provide coverage somewhere else in the building. In the secondary schools, the lack of substitutes means combined classes and disrupted schedules.

When I heard of this shortage that started last year, I found time to help out. This fall, while the Senate has been in recess, I’ve been filling in as a substitute teacher at my kids’ school, Stony Lane Elementary. This new experience has been wonderful. The kids are engaged and so much fun to be around, and school staff is very supportive. I’m happy to share details or answer any questions for anyone curious about what it’s like to be a substitute.

The process to become a substitute is relatively easy. You need a bachelor’s degree to substitute as a classroom teacher and a high school diploma/GED to fill in as a teacher assistant. You need to have a background check and a negative TB test. Signing up for shifts is a breeze through the online system using a regular internet browser or an app on your phone.

This has been a very tough couple of years for our students, our teachers and our schools, and they could use some community support right now. If you have time in your schedule, whether part-time, full-time or just one day here and there, please consider lending your time and care to our North Kingstown learners.

You can start the process here:

Bridget Valverde

RI State Senator


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