Weather Forecast


The Packer Weekly: Area school teachers make accommodations for absences

Classroom 211H soon begins to fill with students a minute before the bell. Students notice English teacher Candice Paczkowski is not in the room. In her place is a substitute teacher.

For the first week of January this was common for Paczkowski’s class. She said she has met some of her students only a handful of times this semester because of family emergencies.

“I’ve been absent because my husband is ill,” Paczkowski said. “He has heart problems, and so the first week of January I was gone because his defibrillator fired four times and he had a slight heart attack.”

Unlike some occupations in which a phone call to a manager the day before an absence is most common, teachers are expected to utilize the AESOP (Automated Educational Substitute Operator) program.

The program allows instructors to register their absences by either logging into the program or calling a number. It records and stores this information and fills the opening with a substitute in real time for administrators to view.

Administrative assistance Dixie Miller steps in by messaging subs in the building when there is a hitch in the system. If a teacher does not input the absence into the program before the 7:30 a.m. deadline, then Miller must fill in the information herself. She also assists in other cases when an absence might have been recorded, but there remains no substitute to assume the position.

“So then I have to send out to [our teachers] and say: ‘We need to fill periods two, five, six, and eight’ she said. “And the teachers respond back to me, by email, and I fill in all the holes that way.”

She compares those days to putting together a large jigsaw puzzle, finding teachers to fill specific periods while ensuring they have their district-required open period.

Students are often unaware of these procedures behind the scenes because by the time they arrive in class, Miller and the staff have made sure someone is there.

Junior Ross Pergande and other students enrolled in Jessica Gregerson’s or AP Biology class have had a long-term substitute because of Gregerson’s maternity leave.

“It’s kind of hard having a teacher who does not regularly teach biology, let alone AP biology,” Pergande said. “But [teachers] are making adjustments to help students.”

These adjustments include the use of test corrections and allowing students to complete additional assignments for extra credit points.

Paczkowski remains aware of whether her students are being productive in classes despite her absence.

“When I am gone I want my classes to continue,” Paczkowski said. “When I am gone I do not want [students] to do something that is not productive because then that is a waste of the students time.”

(The Packer Weekly is an ongoing column authored by journalism students at West Fargo High School with the intent of providing awareness about and insight into a variety of school-related topics and activities. For additional information, visit