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Sub shortage: DASD HR director, teachers' union president discuss substitute opportunities

DuBOIS — Like many school districts across the state of Pennsylvania, the DuBois Area School District has seen a shortage of substitute teachers growing quietly over recent years, according to Director of Human Resources Edd Brady.

In an effort to address help with the district’s sub pool, Brady revisited, with the Courier Express, the qualifications needed to become a substitute teacher.

“You can be a day-to-day substitute in a school district if you have a bachelor’s degree,” said Brady. In addition, substitute teachers must undergo and pass all necessary background checks and clearances and all other pertinent information before they are hired.

Once those requirements are met, they would be called through the district’s automated system.

“That offers a large amount of flexibility,” Brady said. “The substitute would get an automated call when there’s available position, and the system says what the position is and where it’s located. They can either reject or accept a position. It really offers a lot of flexibility for people who are looking for days, if they’re not available five days a week, or if they prefer one school over another, or one subject area over another.”

Substitute teaching is a great opportunity to be a part of the overall community of the district, said Brady.

“And the district focuses on getting the students real world experiences within our local community,” Brady said. “This would be an opportunity for substitutes to bring their expertise into the classroom and really help support the day-to-day instruction that our teaching professionals provide.”

Dawna Vanderpool, president of the DuBois Area Education Association, the teachers’ union, provided some historical perspective about substitute teachers in the district.

“The whole state has seen a reduction by, I believe over 60 percent of students who are pursuing bachelor’s degrees in education,” said Vanderpool. “That has made something that was started with the TSS (Therapeutic Staff Support) situation even more dire even though the work TSS’s do is very important and very necessary.”

Brady said the district has less than 50 substitute teachers and almost 300 teaching professionals.

“And so if a position goes unfilled, then teachers are assigned during prep periods or administrative duties to cover,” said Vanderpool.

Brady said there is really a sub shortage in all areas.

“We have our teaching professionals, we have our custodial staff, we have our aids and secretaries,” said Brady. “With those, we have a lot of need there as well.”

They say ideal candidates are most likely a retired person who is looking for something to do a few days a week to keep busy, someone who is looking for a position with flexibility and/or someone who is looking to work with advanced children but they want to make a difference, or somebody who wants part-time work, but who wants the ability to choose which days a month they work.

“Someone who wants to be a part of a large community. Each school has its own little community and then there’s the entire district community, to be a part of that,” said Brady.

DASD pays substitute teachers $100 a day, while substitute aides and secretaries are paid $9.50 per hour and substitute custodial staff members are paid $10 an hour.

Anyone interested in learning more about substitute teaching can call Brady at 814-371-2700.

CUP OF CHEER: Holiday podcast features DuBois area businesses

DuBOIS — A DuBois-based Christmas podcast is giving people something “merry and bright” to listen to during the holiday season, while showcasing local businesses.

DuBois resident DJ Penhollow, his girlfriend Tami Larrabee and best friend Layne Stipe have had an “undying love for the Christmas season” all of their lives, Penhollow said.

“We decided to bring that passion to the podcast world, and to surrounding areas,” he said.

Stipe and Penhollow have been podcasting about “nerd stuff,” they said, on a show called “Nerdtalkalype” for three years now. Now, 100 episodes later, they are branching into different categories.

Penhollow said his love for podcasts came about when he was delivering pizzas, and was longing for some entertainment beyond music.

“Podcasts provide a constant and ever-changing showcase of entertainment, and you can find any show about anything,” he said. “It’s a really great way to get stuff out there.”

The goal of the “Cup of Cheer” podcast is not just to spread the love of the holiday season, but to showcase DuBois-area businesses and what they offer, Penhollow said.

“We are asking them for some type of collaboration, and in exchange, we are promoting them for the entire duration of the show’s run time throughout the season,” he said. “Some places are making a special product offer for people who mention the show.”

For example, a coffee shop in town might offer a discount if someone mentions the podcast, he said.

The first few special guests include Hockman Candies talking about the history of Christmas candy, Bradley’s Books and “the beat of Christmas stories” and the Downtown DuBois Group for events.

Recording will take place in their DuBois home, Penhollow said, but they intend to explore locations during the holiday season.

“When we can attend holiday events, we have a mobile podcasting station that can come with us to capture interviews from anywhere,” he said.

Podcast regulars can access COC on several platforms, including Apple, Spotify and Google. Those who are unfamiliar can search YouTube and the podcast’s Facebook page.

Big Run food pantry BRANCHH expanding capabilities

BIG RUN — The Big Run food pantry is a lesser known resource in the Big Run area that some residents still don’t realize exists.

Big Run Area New Community Helping Hands, or BRANCHH, was established in 2009. The group operates from the Social hall of the First Christian Church at 117 Church Street in Big Run. They offer pickups on the second Saturday of each month from 11 a.m. to noon.

Volunteer Robin McKee explained the pantry tries to pair foods from which a full meal can be made, like pasta and sauce, soups and crackers, and peanut butter and jelly. They also encourage fresh, in-season food.

“We try to give out some more nutritious things, we don’t do ramen noodles,” McKee said. “We try to encourage some fresh things like the eggs, and when fresh potatoes are in season we try to get them.”

BRANCHH gets no funding from any corporation, and runs entirely on a donation basis. They don’t apply for grants because there are only a few families who help, and they try to keep it to what they can manage.

“God has been good to us the whole time, we’ve never gone without something,” McKee said.

The pantry serves about 14 families per month and most of their service goes to the elderly in the area, according to McKee. Each family gets a food box that they can fill with food from the pantry. Of things like soups and vegetables, there are a certain number each box gets, but the family or individual can pick which they want from what’s available.

The people served are good about not taking more food than they think they need, or taking food they know they won’t eat. This is a great help to the food pantry, because they can give that food to someone who will definitely use it.

The pantry doesn’t turn anyone away, but they try to help the locals as much as they can, and will direct people to other food pantries near them they might not know about like Reynoldsville. They will also carry the food up the church steps or deliver for those who might have trouble walking or getting around.

BRANCHH has also been able to add hygiene and cleaning products to their list of offered supplies. They rotate every other month between cleaning supplies and hygiene products. Those who come in for food can also get two items being offered that month.

“This is something that we’re able to do now, but when we first started we didn’t have the funding for it. This is thanks to our donations we receive,” McKee said.

McKee also said the pantry is considering starting a pilot program to collect and distribute pet food as well. She said most people don’t need baby food because they can get WIC, but there’s no program to help feed a pet. They are also considering this because most of their patrons are elderly, and like to have pets for company.

Storms will disrupt Thanksgiving travel across US

As the Thanksgiving travel period kicks off this weekend and continues through the following weekend, at least three storms of note have the potential to cause trouble on the roads and at airports across the United States.

More than 55 million travelers have plans to venture at least 50 miles away from home from the Friday before Thanksgiving to the Sunday after Thanksgiving, according to the American Automobile Association. The holiday travel volume is expected to be second-highest (behind 2005) since tracking began in 2000, AAA said.

An active storm track is forecast to bring a wintry mix this weekend to the Midwest and Northeast, prior to a more significant and potentially very disruptive storm for the central U.S. during the peak of the Thanksgiving travel time.

The same storm forecast to bring much-needed rainfall to part of California and the Southwest states at midweek and soaking rain to the South Central states late this week is expected to turn toward the Midwest and East this weekend.

Rain and a couple of thunderstorms are likely to extend from the lower Mississippi Valley to the Ohio Valley from Friday to Saturday then from the southern Atlantic coast to the mid-Atlantic and southern New England from Saturday to Sunday.

While the rain can make for slick travel on the roads, poor visibility due to patchy fog and a low cloud ceiling can lead to airline delays at some of the major hubs from Atlanta to Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and eventually New York City and Boston.

On the storm’s colder northwest flank, a wintry mix and some snow could extend from parts of the central Plains Friday night to the middle Mississippi Valley Saturday and Great Lakes region by Saturday night.

The major hubs of St. Louis, Chicago and Detroit may be affected by some wintry precipitation for a time this weekend.

The next cross-country storm, which will originate over the Gulf of Alaska this weekend, is forecast to dip over the Northwest and northern Rockies early next week.

While this new storm will bring rain showers to the Seattle and Portland areas, snow will spread over the northern Rockies, the mountains of the interior Northwest and the northern Plains from late Sunday to Monday.

Snowfall is likely to occur at pass elevation levels with this storm, so motorists should anticipate delays as the storm moves in.

In terms of Thanksgiving travel, in lieu of any bad weather, there’s “nothing worse than Wednesday,” the AAA said in its statement. Trips made on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving can be four times longer as commuters mix with holiday travelers, according to AAA.

Bad weather can greatly magnify travel delays.

That same Northwest storm is likely to regroup over the central and southern Rockies from Tuesday to Wednesday.

There is the potential for heavy snow and winterlike travel conditions with substantial delays for a nearly 1,000-mile stretch of the heartland. Wintry weather could spread from eastern Colorado and northeastern New Mexico to parts of Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan as Thanksgiving travel surges next Wednesday.

The same storm is likely to produce locally heavy rain and thunderstorms on its warm side over the southern Plains and the lower Mississippi and Ohio valleys by the middle of next week.

So not only may there be normal heavy holiday traffic on the roads and at the airports, a storm may really throw a wrench into plans during the Wednesday before Thanksgiving over the Central states.

Another storm is likely to move in from the Pacific Ocean and could have negative impact on travel with low-elevation coastal rain and mountain and inland snow in the Northwest from Wednesday to Thanksgiving Day.

This far out, the track, strength and timing of each storm can change.

AccuWeather will continue to provide updates for Thanksgiving travel in the coming days.