Douglass E. Bruce has a simple reason for seeking work as a substitute if Los Angeles schoolteachers go out on strike next week. "I'm starving," the 49-year-old unemployed education consultant said.
Ann Wright, a substitute teacher who has worked for years in Norwalk, Downey, Little Lake and Whittier schools, is hoping that the Los Angeles Unified School District will assign her "a nice school."
"There must be one somewhere. Maybe I'll get lucky," she said.
Jim Gajniak, a former computer salesman who is changing careers, said he wants to be a substitute teacher to qualify for an intern program that will enable him to gain a full-time credential.
For all these reasons and others, dozens are answering the Los Angeles Unified School District's call to work as substitute teachers in case there is a strike.
As the strike countdown continues, district administrators have spent more than $40,000 on a newspaper advertising campaign to find substitutes. They have raised the daily substitute pay from $98.31 to $137.63 and have set up two centers to process what they hope soon will be a flood of applications.
The would-be substitutes are already bracing for the invective they know will be hurled at them if they cross picket lines.
"They can't call me worse than the kids have," Wright said. "You even get some grade-oners who will blow your mind."
Fifty-three applicants came to the administration headquarters Wednesday to fill out the forms required by the school system.
Wright said she was still in bed in her Santa Fe Springs home Wednesday morning when her husband phoned her with news of the school district's job offer. Wright, 39, left her daughter with a baby-sitter and set off for district headquarters in downtown Los Angeles.
'Just Might Stay'
Wright hopes that she will be assigned to a school where student discipline is not a problem.
"If they give me a nice one, I just might stay," she said.
Bruce, who said he has a Ph.D. from a university in the Philippines, has no plans to try for a permanent job with the school system.
"No, no, no, just for temporary," he insisted. "I don't accept the educational program in the Los Angeles schools. There is no discipline. I am strictly here for the $137.50 per diem."
Bruce said he worked as a full-time teacher in the Los Angeles schools for a number of years until 1984.
"I have never been part of the union," Bruce said, adding that he doesn't believe in unions and can handle any flak from union activists. "It doesn't bother me."
Gajniak, 49, said he had decided about six months ago to switch from a 25-year career in the computer industry to teaching.
"I like people," he said.
Teaching, he explained, "gives me more satisfaction than working with computers."
To make the switch, he has been subbing in the Hart Unified School District in Newhall. He was drawn to Los Angeles schools because the strike pay is better than he was earning. There also is the chance to get into a two-year district intern program that allows people to earn a teaching credential while working as a substitute.
Gajniak said he hopes striking teachers will understand his position.
"I'm sure if I were a regular teacher and the sub needed the income . . . I wouldn't object to the sub filling my shoes in my absence," he said. "The main thing is the children need to be educated."
Michael Acosta, the administrator in charge of recruitment, said the school system will not be hiring permanent replacements for striking teachers.
"I know that is sensitive," he said. "I don't want people to get the impression that we are hiring regular teachers."
But Acosta said he does want to hire thousands of substitutes.
"I sincerely doubt we will get 10,000. I would like to get as many as we can," Acosta said.
Union leaders have predicted that a majority of the 32,000 teachers, nurses, counselors and librarians will go on strike.
District personnel specialist Cindy Walden, who is running the advertising campaign, said she is not sure how much the district will spend to find substitutes.
"We just need to get the word out, and whatever that amount is, is what we will pay. That is the bottom line. We have got to staff our schools," she said.
In addition to substitute teachers, as many as 400 school administrators will be assigned to classroom teaching in the event of a strike.