LCPS Board of Education Examines Substitute Shortage; Encourages Bullying Prevention Efforts

Sep 8, 2021

Las Cruces Public Schools has successfully recruited additional substitute teachers, following a shortage that left the district with approximately 190 teachers in the substitute pool. The district is seeking to restore the pool to pre-pandemic levels, working toward a long-term goal of 1,000 substitute teachers.  

LCPS Chief Human Resources Officer Miguel Serrano attributed the recent interest to an early September job fair, which helped to recruit hundreds of additional substitutes.  

“We had 72 applicants the first day…The next day we hired 166, for a total of 238 and counting,” Serrano said. “We had people with bachelor’s, master's, we even have people with PhDs that want to come in, and they don't have a job right now and they want to contribute and support our kids in the classroom.”

Between August 9 and September 3, 3,035 total teacher absences were recorded within the district. Of those, around 34% went unfilled by substitutes and were covered by other LCPS employees. To entice more substitutes, LCPS increased the rate of pay on Mondays and Fridays from $100 to $150 in late August.

Serrano says that a permanent substitute position has been created for every school in the district, adding that the district hopes to expand the number of permanent positions soon.

“We are going to add additional permanent substitute positions at each school,” Serrano said.  “We started with one. We plan to maybe add two or three more to each campus so everybody will have four permanent substitutes that can take care of those needs at the campus level.”

School Board President Ray Jaramillo raised concern over the quality of applicants, asking for more information on the vetting process.

“I know the numbers are important, but I worry about the quality of the people. It's not just numbers that we have to get to,” Jaramillo said. “There's a lot of people that could pass a background check but shouldn't be working with children. There's a lot of times people have a bachelor's degree but shouldn't be working with children.”

Serrano, on behalf of the district’s human resources department, says the LCPS selection process is more thorough than in other states, noting some candidates did not advance.

“In our department, we have a very rigorous interview process,” Serrano said. “We had several people that we didn't think were ready to serve our students, and they will not serve our students.”

The board also discussed the formation of a proclamation for National Bullying Prevention Month in October. LCPS Superintendent Ralph Ramos voiced ideas on how to increase anti-bullying efforts within schools.

“We're now looking at restorative practices, and really out of school suspension is not the only answer,” Ramos said. “It starts with daily announcements over the intercom starting our school day out, reminding ‘Hey thank you for committing to no bullying, no violence, no drugs.’ The constant reminders. Not only that, celebrations at schools.”

School Board President Ray Jaramillo says he hopes that the proclamation is not just a one-time effort, but that an anti-bullying culture can become better engrained within the LCPS community over time.

“I see this not as just a one-time thing, but I’d really like to see this over the next five years, ten years, fifteen years really turn things around,” Jaramillo said. “That’s changing a culture. And changing the culture is not done with a program or one thing. Culture is changing the way people look at things.”