The number of daily teacher absences in Cy-Fair ISD rose from 568 in January 2020 to 821 in January 2021, but the number of substitutes working each day decreased from 490 to 440 in that timeframe, according to district data.

CFISD has 1,307 active substitute teachers as of late January, and nearly 600 have been hired so far this school year—up from about 300 in 2019-20. But officials said they would like to see the fill rate increase.

“In the fall of 2020 it was evident to us that we had a concern with regards to our substitute fill rate. We had a problem with increased teacher absences and a lower fill rate than the previous year, and we recognized the need to have more [active] substitutes accepting assignments,” Onica Mayers, director of employee relations and professional staffing, said at the March 8 board meeting.

A survey sent to substitute teachers and paraprofessionals in the fall found 91% of respondents were comfortable with the safety protocols established on campuses, and 61% had accepted at least one job in the 2020-21 school year.

Mayers said 95% of those who were not accepting assignments at the time attributed it to COVID-19. Most of these reported they were reluctant or fearful to take jobs on campuses, and others said they had underlying health concerns, had children attending school virtually from home or were caring for someone else.

Based on responses gathered in the survey, Mayers said an increase in pay and end-of-semester bonuses would help incentivize substitute teachers and increase the district’s fill rate.

Many substitutes were eligible for a stipend at the end of the fall semester, and others could be eligible for a longevity stipend at the end of the spring semester, according to Melanie Dobney, assistant director of CFISD’s substitute office.

Dobney said the daily pay rate for substitutes with at least a bachelor’s degree is higher in Fort Bend, Houston, Katy, Klein and Tomball ISDs, and increasing the daily pay rate in CFISD from $92 to $105 would ensure the district remains competitive with its neighbors.

“And if we want to lead the area and really get the best of the best of our substitute teachers and have them choose Cy-Fair ISD to substitute, we need to go as high as $115 per day in order to do that,” Dobney said.

These proposed pay increases would cost the district an estimated $1.2 million-$2.2 million.

To attract more substitute teacher applicants to CFISD, the district also modified requirements in February to allow individuals with a minimum of 48 college credit hours to apply. These individuals are paid $84 each day they work instead of the $92 degreed substitutes make.

Previously, Dobney said the district was one of the few in the region that required substitutes to have a bachelor’s degree, and since changing the requirements about 25% of applicants have not had bachelor’s degrees.

Those interested in applying to work as a substitute in CFISD can learn more at