Substitute Teachers and the DOE’s Summer Rising Program

Summer Rising has been an interesting logistical feat. It’s also not representative of what NYC DOE substitute teachers should expect in terms of summer job prospects.

The employment application for New York City’s 2022 Summer Rising went live a few days ago. Substitute teachers in particular seems to be quite excited, as it gives many hope that per diem educators can maintain their income from the DOE by taking jobs during the summer.

The problem with substitute teachers and Summer Rising is that many of us worked the first iteration of the program — which came at a time when we were still in the thick of the pandemic, with vaccine access still being rolled out and no access to antiviral treatments for COVID at the time.

The Department of Education made it pretty clear for most of the spring 2021 semester that per diem substitute teachers would not be able to work Summer Rising. I remember emailing SubCentral myself early in the spring semester and getting a generic response that the DOE didn’t anticipate hiring substitute teachers for the summer. Substitute teachers were roped into things at the very last minute, sent to schools all across the city, and most schools didn’t even know we were expected to report for work. On my first day of Summer Rising, I spent 1-2 hours sitting in the office lobby waiting for the site to figure out how to utilize the 2-3 subs that had been sent from SubCentral. I didn’t blame this school at all, but there was a massive communication failure on the part of the DOE.

The program turned out to be a staffing disaster. The DOE flip-flopped on its capacity to accept students, pivoting from a set program size with a wait list to preparing to “serve all students interests in a site’s program.” This guidance was given to principals mere days prior to the start of the program, and it’s no surprise that many sites subsequently faced a staffing logistical nightmare.

I don’t like coming off as a pessimist, but I think it’s important for us to also be realistic about what to expect from the DOE. We’ve seen how the Department treats per diem workers and we should know what to expect by now, for better or for worse. Do I hope that per diem teachers have the opportunity to work summer school? Absolutely. But per session money doesn’t differentiate between a licensed teacher and an uncertified substitute. Substitute teachers historically have seldom had the opportunity to teach summer school, and we should exercise great caution in basing our summer expectations on the first iteration of Summer Rising.

Employment applications for this year’s program are due on May 23rd, 2022. Whatever is or isn’t in the cards for per diem teachers, we’ll see what happens when the DOE figures out its summer staffing needs. Until then, I encourage substitute educators not to get too excited about summer employment prospects until we hear straight from the horse SubCentral’s mouth.