By MICHAEL ROMAIN
Some temporary, "at-will" District 97 employees could be getting pay raises this year. The administration is recommending that the school board consider approving higher pay rates for substitute custodians, substitute teaching assistants, playground supervisors and lunchroom workers — positions that have recently been difficult to fill.
Currently, substitute custodians — who cover the cleaning shifts of absent custodians — are paid $10 an hour. The administration is recommending an increased rate of $12 an hour in order to attract high-quality custodial substitutes.
"According to the Illinois Department of Labor, the 2015 Cook County prevailing wage rate for regular first-year janitorial staff is $13.35 per hour," explained Laurie Campbell, assistant superintendent for human resources, and Alicia Evans, assistant superintendent for finance and operations, in a Jan. 9 memo.
The $12 per hour rate, they said, is "also less than the starting rate established in the board's 2015-2020 Collective Bargaining Agreement with the Service Employees International Union."
Substitute teaching assistants stand in for any of the 111 teaching assistants employed at D97 when those employees are absent. District officials said that, as with substitute custodians, they've had difficulty filling teaching assistant positions when those employees are absent.
Last month, an average of six teaching assistant positions went unfilled per day, according to the district.
"When a position goes unfilled, other staff need to cover and/or the assistance in the classroom is simply not available on that day," according to the Jan. 9 memo.
"The district has been increasing the substitute teaching and substitute teaching assistant pool," they added. "However, the difference in the rate of pay between substitute teaching and working as a substitute teaching assistant does not make it appealing for substitute teachers to accept substitute teaching assistant positions."
Currently, substitute teaching assistants get paid $10.15 an hour while substitute teachers get paid $103 a day.
After looking at pay rates for positions in other suburban school districts, district officials concluded that the district currently pays substitute teaching assistants "far below the market average."
In order to fill those absences, the administration has recommended that the pay structure be changed from hourly to half-day and full-day rates, and that substitute teaching assistants be paid an increased rate of $45 per half-day and $90 per full day.
"Doing so will retain the current substitute teaching assistants" and "make it more financially desirable for current substitute teachers to accept a substitute teaching assistant position," district officials said, adding that the administration will continue to monitor the new rates once they've taken effect.
In addition, the administration is recommending that the pay rate for playground supervisors be increased from $9.84 an hour to $11 an hour. The pay rate for playground supervisors hasn't changed since 2015, officials said.
"While District 97 teachers often provide lunchtime supervision at the schools, there are times and instances where more supervisors are needed," they explained.
The administration is also looking to increase the pay for entry-level lunchroom workers, who are responsible for serving food and cleaning cafeterias. Currently, these workers are paid $10.75 an hour. According to the Illinois Department of Labor, the 2014 prevailing wage rate in Cook County for first-year food service workers is $10.67 an hour.
The school board is expected to vote on the pay increases at a regular meeting on Jan. 23. Evans said the funds are currently on hand to accommodate the pay increases, which would go into effect as soon as the school board approves.
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