By Jade Bulecza - bio | email
VALDOSTA, GA (WALB) - With deep state education budget cuts and falling local tax collections,every penny counts for Georgia school systems. Many of them spend big bucks hiring substitute teachers to fill in when regular teachers get sick.
Some are now recruiting volunteers to help lower that cost. The Valdosta City School system spends about half a million dollars a year on substitute teachers.
"We've been doing that for several years," said Dr. Bill Cason, Valdosta City Superintendent. "And so I decided to try something different to try and see if we could save some money from that area to offset the cost of furloughing teachers."
Cason says it costs about $65 a day to hire a substitute teacher. Now, the school system is looking for volunteers to help out when teachers are sick. "We are having a nice group of volunteers, some from local banks moody air force base different businesses around. The chamber is helping us with this process."
One well-known community member spent a day teaching at Valdosta High School in October.
"I was able to to have the time to talk about chemistry. This was not celebrity substituting. This was real chemistry."
Mayor John Fretti taught all four blocks at the high school and said he gained an even higher respect for teachers.
"I used some of my kitchen chemistry models about dissolving sugar into sweet tea and how many ways to do that. It incorporates Boyle's law and pressure and temperature," said Fretti.
The Valdosta Lowndes Chamber of Commerce is helping to get the word out. That's how Mayor Fretti found out about volunteer substituting.
"Our school system is our community as is our government and I think it's incumbent upon any citizen to sign up to volunteer to substitute teach for free."
Several other school systems around Georgia are also trying to save money by using free substitute teachers, anticipating even deeper funding cuts from the state.
The school system also started an energy conservation program to save money.
Dr. Cason says they tried to get the best rates from Georgia Power and eliminated refrigerators and microwaves from classrooms.
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