The Maine Department of Education and Educate Maine have partnered to launch a Guest School Staff Member campaign with a challenge to businesses, leaders, and citizens to help fill the needs in our schools. Guest School Staff Members can serve a variety of roles in schools, filling in for or supporting bus drivers, playground monitors, food service workers, teachers, and support staff.
As part of the effort, the Department of Education unveiled a new Guest School Staff website to streamline the application process into nine easy steps and the Department will automatically reimburse applicants for the $15 application and $55 fingerprinting fees. For those employers who grant volunteer days to their employees, encouraging those staff to sign up to be a Guest School Staff Member for a day or two can make a real difference. Two days times 50 employees equals 100 days of support that helps keep students in school and engaged in learning.
“This is a call to action because our schools need you to serve as a guest school staff member,” said Maine Education Commissioner Pender Makin. “Over the last few weeks, I’ve been in schools working as a substitute in classrooms, joining cafeteria staff to serve fresh and nutritious meals, helping with lunch duty and clean up, and filling in wherever necessary. There are so many ways you can fill the needs in our schools, and it’s been such a joy to experience the amazing work happening across all parts of our schools and to be with amazing students and school staff.”
Maine’s schools have been safely open for business, ensuring that students have access whenever possible to high quality, in-person learning. But the statewide surge of COVID-19 has increased school staffing shortages, and many schools have had to make emergency and disruptive pivots to remote learning, simply because they do not have enough adults to ensure that schools can operate safely and effectively. Guest School Staff Members can help fill these gaps and ensure schools remain open to serve our students.
“Recently, at an Educate Maine Board meeting, Heather Whitaker, 2020 Maine Teacher of the Year, talked about the lack of substitute teachers in the Gorham School district and across the state and the impact this shortage is having on students, teachers and parents. Our Board decided that if ever there was a time for business and education to work together, this is it,” said Clif Greim, Educate Maine Board Chair and Maine State Chamber Board Chair. “This ‘call to action’ is an opportunity for us to work with our education partners to alleviate some of the burden by having employers urge employees to serve as substitute teachers in their local schools.”
“While this may not be a long-term solution, it will help ease some of the stress and strain on the educators in our schools and we appreciate the Department of Education’s efforts,” said Maine Education Association President Grace Leavitt.
“You can make a real difference and be a hero by supporting our schools and students,” said Makin. “You can choose which districts you want to support, in many instances when and where you want to work, and it won’t cost you anything but your time, which will be well spent with our amazing young people. I promise you’ll be inspired by the energy and miracles that fill our schools each and every day.”
“Superintendents have been doing everything possible to make sure classrooms have teachers and schools have what they need to educate our students, but we simply need more people to support our schools, staff, and students,” said Eileen King, Maine School Superintendent Association Executive Director. “We welcome this creative effort to create an easy process for people interested in substituting to connect with their districts, apply, and work towards supporting our students. We need you, so apply today!”
“Our school principals continue to be tasked with patching together staffing plans and covering vacancies, trying to keep students safely learning in classrooms, despite the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 on school staff availability,” said Holly Blair, Executive Director of Maine Principals’ Association. “The efforts of Maine DOE and Educate Maine to raise awareness to the need and ease the process for substitute school staff is greatly appreciated, and we join in their call to business and community members to consider become guest school staff heroes.”