School districts in Illinois have been dealing with a substitute teacher shortage over the past few years. Oak Park’s District 97 and River Forest’s District 90 are no exception.

Gina Hermann, senior director of human resources for D97, said this has impacted their district significantly.

“Each day that a classroom does not have a certified educator present for instruction results in a disconnect in learning for students and a hardship on educators,” said Hermann, noting that D97 has used a number of strategies to attract and retain substitute teachers, including advertising employment opportunities in external and internal publications and reaching out to local universities. They hosted a career fair in November 2019.

Additionally, in October 2018 the D97 Board of Education unanimously approved an increase in the daily rate of pay for people who hold credentials to substitute teach in the state of Illinois. The new rate of $110/day applies to people with the appropriate credentials who work as substitute teachers or substitute teaching assistants in D97 schools. Meanwhile, anyone who only possesses substitute teaching assistant credentials (i.e., an Illinois paraprofessional license) will continue to receive the rate of pay that the board approved in January 2018 ($45 for a half day or $90 for a full day).

Hermann added that the district is starting to see success through these recruitment efforts.

D90 in River Forest has been impacted by the substitute shortage as well. Pam Jenkins, human resources specialist for D90, said the district really began to notice the issue during the last school year. 

“Nobody was applying for the positions,” said Jenkins. “We were posting ads more frequently with little results.”

Although D90’s recruitment efforts haven’t panned out significantly so far, Jenkins said it’s forced the schools to plan better. 

She added that the problem hits the district most severely when it comes to professional development for teachers on a school day and finding a large number of substitute teachers to cover a large number of teachers is extremely difficult. Jenkins said the district is looking into third-party vendors who can supply professionals for situations such as this.

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