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Young Substitutes Taking Over

Since October 16 last week, Miami Dade County Public Schools have phased out their traditional hiring process for substitute teachers. The temporary employment is now in the hands of Kelly Education, a Michigan-based private corporation that supplies faculty talent to other school boards, such as The School District of Osceola County, according to their website. The involvement of a third party in the recruitment process has divided teachers, students, and parents alike; citing more opportunities for those who want to get started in the education field, and lower qualified candidates.

The requirements that prospective substitutes must meet have also been changed. According to the website of the Office of Human Capital Management at M-DCPS, applicants for the nonpermanent role must now be at least 18 years old for Elementary and Middle School positions, 19 years old for High School positions, and have a standard high school diploma. This requirement is also supplemented by the already-existing fingerprinting and drug testing procedures. Those who look forward to filling on behalf of a teacher must also undergo Classroom Management training, which is currently provided free of charge by Kelly Education.

These changes have impacted current substitutes who were previously employed by M-DCPS. Mr. Patrick Doral, a substitute teacher who has been employed directly from the district for more than 10 years, describes the changes in the criteria introduced last week as a “double-edged sword”, adducing the dangers of the drop of standards that can allude under-qualified individuals to take responsibility of classrooms, while countering the current shortage of teachers around the country. While Patrick appreciates that he now receives his pay weekly, he has also shared that he no longer has access to the internet inside the school due to the absence of a county employee ID. Additionally, he will soon lose access to all county-owned computer devices; something that according to him greatly impacts his ability to teach.

Permanent teachers have expressed their concerns about the possible faults the candidates that apply with these new requirements can have. “How can an immature teenager guide you through an emergency?” Science teacher Ms. Rivera shared. “Teenagers can’t do [anything]”. She believes that the simplification of the requirements is not the answer to the current teacher shortage, and insists that a better pay grade will attract more qualified individuals and contribute to a more competitive environment.

Some students are unsure whether the new requirements are suitable to ensure their safety. Junior student Arianna Madsen shared with us: “It is inappropriate for anyone of the age of 18 to be taking care of high school students, especially if they just graduated from high school.” Arianna also expressed her concern about the level of trust recent graduates should be given managing a classroom with kids. Analeese Juste, a Junior student has also shared her negative feelings toward the school board. In her own words, she claims the new age requirement is not fair. “When you are 18, you haven’t gone through much to know how to act and take care of a classroom setting.” While she believes that this change won’t impact students in any way, she shared that the involvement of a private organization in employing these employees is questionable.

On the other hand, a segment of students considers the change to be beneficial and important to improve the quality of education at our school. Senior Karina Sacerio shared with The Talon her point of view. “It’s a very good idea. I think that it will create a safer environment.” She elaborated further on her opinion, mentioning how the strict process involving fingerprinting and identity verification that individuals seeking the position now have to follow makes her feel secure. “Drug testing can also make a huge impact.” Karina added. From her perspective, a professional process conducted by a third-party company will enable schools to be more precautionary when it comes to deciding who to hire for a substitution.

Parents are also taking a stance on how this change can influence the education of their children. Ms. Liezbeth Nuñez, who had the intention to become a substitute teacher in the past, shared her opinion on the new standards. She believes that the new regulations are fair for everyone, as it provides flexibility to people, alongside a higher sense of responsibility. However, she also expressed discontent with the requirements, as she believes schools should continue to employ safety procedures to ensure the integrity of new hires. “They are desperate to fill the [teachers] gap”. Ms. Nuñez added. The mother also stated further that schools should consider individuals with a teaching ambition, as it would assist them in finding equitable opportunities in the future within their field.

The involvement of a private corporation in the substitute hiring process for our school district, alongside the change of requirements, has been a matter of controversy among teachers, students, and parents. While some see it as a positive change that will provide more opportunities for people who want to get started in the noble task of teaching, others raise concerns about the qualifications of the potential hires and their ability to manage a classroom properly. The opinions are divided, but this change is sure to have a significant impact on the education system within Miami-Dade.

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