When a teacher needs to miss a day of work, it’s not as simple as simply calling in sick.

Julia Timson, president of the Cumberland County Education Association, said teachers must go through a list of phone numbers, calling substitutes to find someone to take over their classes. 

“You have a baby at home and he’s got a fever, or you’re throwing up, and you have to call 10 or 12 names on the list,” Timson said. “We need some sort of technology we can log into online or we can call.”

Timson has already alerted personnel at the central office to the teacher’s concerns. She said Kim Herring, student information systems administrator, and Kim Bray, human resources supervisor, were already evaluating possible solutions; however, there could be added cost for a software solution. 

When Timson taught in Memphis before moving to Cumberland County, the school system there had a system she could call at any time to alert it she would not be able to work the following day.

“And at 6 a.m., it would begin calling substitutes for me,” she said, adding she taught in Memphis about 18 years ago.

The problem has come up in the last several weeks as various viruses have made the rounds.

“I’ve had several teachers reach out to me,” Timson said.

Either the teachers or their children were ill, and it took some hours to find a substitute, she said. 

“We need something in place. Teachers should not be at school with a 102-degree fever because they could not find a sub,” she said.

She added no one made teachers report to work when ill. 

“Teachers feel like someone has got to be in that classroom. If I couldn’t find a sub, I would drag myself in there,” Timson said. 

She recounted a day years before she had done that, napping behind her desk while students were at special areas or lunch. 

“I had no business being there that day,” she said. “A teacher that is that sick should not be there. Number one, we’ll spread germs to the kids. Number two, it’s not good for my physical wellbeing.”


Heather Mullinix is editor of the Crossville Chronicle. She covers schools and education in Cumberland County. She may be reached at hmullinix@crossville-chronicle.com.

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