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Best Practices for Managing Substitutes

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Substitutes are vital to school districts, so managing them effectively can increase retention and build your district’s substitute pool.

Recruitment and Hiring

Summer is a great time to recruit new substitutes. The local newspaper, social media, signage at district facilities, and the district’s website are all viable ways to advertise the need for substitutes. This may include advertising on buses, using banners on school fences, and posting yard signs. Additional ideas are to post opportunities online at local colleges and set up recruiting tables at open houses and athletic and fine arts events. Encourage campus principals, teachers, and existing substitutes to help with the recruitment efforts.

Prior to the start of the school year or early fall, all new substitutes should be thoroughly onboarded and trained. Onboarding includes sharing the district’s philosophy and culture. Training should include safety and emergency protocol, classroom procedures, student engagement strategies, and discipline techniques. Providing a refresher or update for existing substitutes will prepare them for the start of the new year as well. Additional ongoing training can be offered online or in person at intervals throughout the year.


Your substitute system or your district communication tools can be used to blast out helpful hints and identify upcoming days requiring more substitutes than normal. It can also be used to advertise availability of upcoming long-term assignments.

Providing resources and recognizing substitutes at least monthly on the HR website is a way to communicate appreciation and value for the work they perform.

Evaluation System

Implementing a substitute evaluation system is beneficial to collect substitute performance data and ensure students are receiving quality instruction. An online evaluation system for use by teachers and principals simplifies the process. Some substitute systems include this feature and can be easily accessed by staff and the HR department to monitor substitute performance.

For serious performance issues, principals should be encouraged to contact HR immediately for assistance. HR should handle all substitute terminations to ensure the proper process is completed.

Letter of Reasonable Assurance

Before the summer break, send a letter of reasonable assurance (LRA) to all active substitutes to combat unemployment claims during scheduled breaks. Document the refusal or failure to sign, and accept this action as a voluntary resignation. More than likely the individual will be disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits.

A Sample Letter of Reasonable Assurance is available in the HR Library. Additionally, see the TASB Risk Management Fund (RMF) article Issue Letters of Reasonable Assurance Before Summer Break and the HRX article Acceptance of Contracts and Letters of Reasonable Assurance for more information.

Critical Timelines

The end of the school year is the appropriate time to identify substitutes who have not accepted jobs during the school year. Purging inactive substitutes from the system to ensure a healthy substitute pool is best practice. Many districts purge substitute lists twice a year—at the end of each semester—for inactivity. Notifying a substitute of their removal from the system and steps needed to be reactivated is key.

Additionally, notify inactive substitutes of obligations to return all district equipment, badges, keys, and any other district-owned materials. Don’t forget to deactivate electronic access by disabling passwords to district computers and programs.

Common practice is to require all subs to return district equipment and deactivate passwords prior to the summer break. Include your virtual subs if you have them!


Fine tuning your substitute procedures throughout the year can increase efficiencies in the program and build your district’s pool of viable substitutes.

During these challenging times it is important to recruit and retain top-notch substitutes. For more information see Substitute Teacher Shortages.

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Cheryl Hoover
Cheryl Hoover

Cheryl Hoover joined HR Services in 2018. She assists with staffing and HR reviews, training, and other HR projects. During Hoover’s public school career, she served as an executive director of curriculum and principal leadership, executive director of human resources, principal, assistant principal, teacher, and coach.

Hoover earned her bachelor’s degree from The University of Texas at Austin and obtained her master’s degree from Texas State University. She is a certified PHR.

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