District 200 struggles to recruit substitute teachers, therapists

 
 
Updated 10/2/2015 9:18 AM

A below-average pay rate is hurting Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200's ability to recruit an adequate number of substitute teachers.

It's just one of several human resources challenges presented to the school board Wednesday night.

 

Robert Rammer, assistant superintendent for administrative services, said the district is not competitive and "probably at the bottom of the order" with its substitute, or guest, teacher pay rate.

"Any increases in that area will be a pretty good-sized attachment to the budget," he said, adding that in recent years there have been "more important places in terms of student learning to put those dollars."

However, Rammer said the district will need to take a hard look at raising its substitute teacher pay "pretty soon."

"Other places are increasing quicker than we are," he said.

According to the district's 2014-15 substitute employee handbook, substitute teachers get paid $85 for a full day and $42.50 for a half day.

Substitute aides, including clerical, receptionist and secretarial positions, are paid $10.25 per hour.

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Rammer said a majority of districts across DuPage County are having similar trouble finding enough substitute teachers to meet their needs. It's a problem, he said, that is driven by an overall improvement in the economy, since teachers who substituted during the recession are now finding permanent jobs.

District officials are hopeful the implementation of a new, digital employee absence system will help draw in more substitute teachers, since it gives them an easier way to see where and when they are needed and sign up to cover a class.

"We anticipate we'll have better coverage of those absences moving forward," Rammer said.

Other areas that cause the district concern when it comes to hiring include:

• Occupational and physical therapists and nurses. Rammer said private companies offer significantly higher pay for those positions.

• Teachers certified to teach bilingual and English learners. They are so rare, the district occasionally gets into "bidding wars" with other districts for them.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

• Teaching aides and assistants. Demand continues to rise, but workers are reluctant to stay in the positions for the long-term because they must work with the "most difficult and challenged students."

On the other hand, Rammer was happy to report that the teacher retention rate at the district is about 97 percent.

He said that percentage was a goal the district wanted to meet by 2018, but it was hit in the 2014-15 school year.

"(Our teachers) are amazed at the politeness and civility of our students, they like the sense of community, they like the fact that the community is supportive of the district," he said. "People stay here. It is different here and that's why I think the retention rate is what it is."

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