Expecting COVID absences, D97 hires permanent subs

Board unanimously approves hiring 26 permanent substitutes for roughly $852K

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By Michael Romain

Staff Reporter

In anticipation of a high number of teacher absences during the 2020-21 school year, the District 97 school board recently approved the hiring of 26 permanent substitutes, which would cost a total of $851,760, administrators said. 

The board unanimously approved the hiring at a regular meeting on July 14. The substitute teachers will be compensated for 182 days at $180 a day, which is the pay rate for long-term substitutes, said Gina Herrmann, D97's HR director, at last month's meeting. 

In a July 14 board memo, Herrmann said the cost would be "significantly offset by the cost we would pay for daily or long-term substitutes we would have to hire if we did not have permanent substitutes in place." 

Hermann said the district was taking the step of hiring the permanent substitutes "in order to be proactive and to avoid a disconnect in learning for our students." 

During the regular meeting, board member Holly Spurlock asked administrators if the 26 permanent substitutes were enough. She also wanted to know how the district arrived at the total. 

"The number was determined based on students per building and I looked back at the sub rate per days to determine how many," Herrmann said. "I feel this is a fair amount coming forward … Could we use more? We'd love more, but I think we start here now."

In her board memo, Herrmann said the permanent substitute teachers "would attend all teacher institutes and remote planning days. They will be trained for delivery of instruction in a blended and remote learning environment and prepared to immediately cover for an educator in the event of illness. If a permanent substitute is not needed for a day, they will support teachers with small group instruction." 

Herrmann said the role of permanent substitute teachers will be reviewed annually and approved before each school year by the board. 

District administrators have observed a substitute teacher shortage for the last four years, administrators said. Day-to-day substitutes are paid $110 a day. Herrmann said that the administration recommended "a high rate of pay" for permanent substitute teachers "due to the demand as many districts are employing permanent substitutes." 

At a special meeting on July 22, D97 Supt. Carol Kelley announced that, after initially planning to return to classes twice a week in the fall, administrators changed course and decided to start the fall with students learning remotely.

CONTACT: michael@oakpark.com 

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Mary Kay O'Grady  

Posted: August 10th, 2020 7:40 PM

Years ago I was a permanent substitute and there was not a day that I was not busy. Teachers get sick, have surgery, have to go to court - there are countless reasons and it's a plus to have subs ready who know the drill.

Mary O'Malley Petranek  

Posted: August 10th, 2020 7:11 PM

"If a permanent substitute is not needed for a day, they will support teachers with small group instruction." Huh? Teachers can't teach in their classrooms due to social distancing but long term subs can work with "small groups." Did I read that right? I know that planning for a new school year under CDC guidelines ain't easy, but this is laughable! Who comes up with this stuff?

Al Berggren from Oak Park  

Posted: August 9th, 2020 11:12 PM

Is the District 97 School Board trying to outdo themselves on stupid decisions? Spending almost $1 MILLION "in ANTICIPATION of a high number of teacher absences" has got to be at or near the top of the stupidity list. Especially since most instruction is going to be in remote learning instead of in classrooms where the students should be. To top it off, I understand the Park District has announced that they will be providing day care for the students who will not be in the classrooms and have no parents (teachers) at home. Why are we paying "substitute teachers" $180 per day for a guaranteed 182 days, plus regular teachers at their normal union salary for the same length of time to babysit students who won't be there, plus whatever the fearless Park District employees will be getting? I believe all of the money comes out of the same pockets ?" ours. Al Berggren

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