By Johnny Jackson
Sharon Campbell said her impression quickly changed five years ago when she left the corporate world and became a substitute teacher.
"I have a totally new respect for teachers now, because this is a hard job to do, day in and day out," said Campbell, a substitute at Arnold Elementary School in Jonesboro.
She is one of nearly 5,000 educators in the Clayton County School System. The school district has had roughly 1,150 active substitutes, based on counts done earlier this week, said school spokesman Charles White, and 80 are certified to teach.
"While there are days, when for whatever reason - prior commitments, illness, deciding not to work, etcetera - it is difficult to find an adequate number of substitutes, the district is not actively seeking new applicants," White said.
He said, however, the school system still accepts applications from interested, qualified applicants.
Campbell said she took the job substituting for love of children and the flexible hours her work allows. She substitutes about three days a week at different schools. She has spent most of her time at Arnold.
"Most people don't value the job," she said. "They think it's us coming in and babysitting. You have the curriculum and actually go over the workbook and explain it to them."
Campbell says she is called on most often not by teachers who are ill, but by teachers who must attend job-related meetings and workshops during the day. The same is true for many substitutes in Henry County.
Teachers generally pre-schedule their absences for job-related meetings or appointments, said Martin Gore, principal of Mt. Carmel Elementary School in Hampton.
"No one can replace a teacher," Gore said. "So far, they seem to be doing well. It has not been a problem. We ask [the teachers] to make sure they schedule ahead of time as much as possible."
Gore said his school has two permanent substitutes, out of the 949 substitutes in the county. In Henry County 28, substitutes are certified teachers .
Henry County has 125 potential substitutes registered to participate in this month's substitute teacher training, according to Human Resources Director Rodney Bowler. A group of 80 has registered for November training.
"It's a good job to have, if you have the patience," Campbell said. "It can be rewarding to help out the teachers and the students. It's a totally different environment [for kids] today than when I was in school."
On the net:
Clayton County Schools: www.clayton.k12.ga.us
Henry County Schools: www.henry.k12.ga.us