Va. kids’ next substitute teacher could be a furloughed fed

FALLS CHURCH, Va. — There is a need for substitute teachers at Fairfax County Public Schools, and some furloughed federal workers and contractors need money to get through the shutdown.

Those two facts led to a job fair for feds willing to work with children and make a few extra dollars in the process.

“We have vacancies everyday with substitute teachers. We have a real need,” said Scott Brabrand, superintendent for Fairfax County Public Schools, which held the event Friday.

“This is not just something that’s nice to do.” Brabrand said. “It’s something that also helps support the school system.”

According to the system, each year it employs 4,000 substitute teachers to fill in for teachers who are sick or on vacation. That can translate to 200,000 working days over the course of a school year. Pay for a seven-hour day as a substitute is $100.59. The pay is $94.48 for a teaching assistant.

There are many positives of bringing federal workers into classrooms, Brabrand said. Among the pluses he said, is that federal workers can serve as role models for the students.

And they’re eager to help.

“I’m doing what I need to do to continue to support my family, support my household, and that is just what I am focusing on right now,” said Timothy Jones, a Manassas, Virginia, resident who works for the Department of Homeland Security.

Many of the workers who were at the event, like Noal Roos, have never served as substitute teachers before. That’s why the school system is giving them an expedited training course with the hope of placing some of them into classrooms as early as next week.

Roos said Friday that the shutdown hasn’t really affected him financially, but the furloughed Justice Department employee said he is looking for ways to keep some money coming in until a budget deal is reached.

“I’m looking at a few things I can possibly do to supplement for the time being, mainly just for food and stuff,” he said.

While the potential income is the main thing that brought some federal workers out, others were looking to sub because, frankly, they are getting stir crazy sitting at home and waiting for the shutdown to end.

“I know what a good job they do, and I’d like to support that and do something with my time,” said  Hope Johnson, a Reston, Virginia, resident who works for the Environmental Protection Agency.

The call out to furloughed workers was well received, with the Friday session being fully booked. Another session Tuesday is all booked as well, but school officials still want to hear from those interested.

As long as all goes well during the application process, the school system plans to have the workers in classrooms as early as next week.

“Maybe some of us here will actually find that we may enjoy it and may want to go into it as a profession. You never know,” Roos said.

FCPS board Chair Karen Corbett Sanders hopes this experience will lead to some federal workers deciding on a new career down the road.

“We have many career switchers that are in our system today, and hopefully some of these people will say: ‘You know what? I wouldn’t mind going with our local government and continuing along this path,’” she said.

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