(right) Sarah Abate, human resources director for the DeKalb School District, presented her plan B to address ongoing substitute staffing shortages Tuesday in front of the D-428 Board of Education.
(right) Sarah Abate, human resources director for the DeKalb School District, presented her plan B to address ongoing substitute staffing shortages Tuesday in front of the D-428 Board of Education.

DeKALB – Despite efforts made in the past year to entice more substitute teachers to work in School District 428, the need for subs in classrooms continues – and district administrators say they have a Plan B.

District 428 human resources director Sarah Abate presented her plan to address ongoing substitute staffing shortages to the school board Tuesday.

In March 2019, the school board approved Abate’s proposal to raise substitute compensation to better recruit districtwide substitute teachers. Now, a year later, she says the measure has not been productive.

“We have not seen the results that we would have liked to have seen as far as coverage,” Abate said. “Although it has been utilized, it has not provided the coverage we had hoped to see.”

The district, as with much of the state, has battled ongoing substitute staffing shortfalls for teachers, instructional assistants, secretaries, nurses and custodians. A 2018 regional superintendents’ survey analysis shows that 64% of districts use an existing teacher to fill in places where substitutes should be, impeding the teacher’s class preparation during the day.

As a result, Abate’s new proposal includes a new compensation structure that she said also will satisfy changing state minimum wage requirements for substitutes, documents show.

Daily compensation for subs would grow by about $15 a day to $20 a day, and range from $82.50 to $140 for a full day’s work depending on position. She also proposed that annual full-time substitute staff – who report to their assigned building every day to fill daily needs and do not qualify for benefits – receive four paid-time-off days as an added benefit.

“In the event of a sick child or if they have to use them personal reasons, they have limited ability to do,” Abate said. “So we want to provide them with some benefit in the event those needs come up.”

Under the new structure, an added annual budget increase of $14,300 would cover the four paid personal days for full-time annual substitute, documents show. Those positions would make $120 a day under Abate’s proposal, up from $100 a day. If subs work long term, they would have the ability to make $135 a day.

Abate also said she ruled out
going through a third-party recruiter
to administer the substitute program, since that would be more costly
than necessary.

Board member Valerie Pena-Hernandez and Jeff Hallgren said they support Abate’s proposal. Although the school board did not take a vote on the measure Tuesday, it will vote on the proposal at a later meeting.

“I think it’s the best and most appropriate approach, and it’s responding to the needs we have,” Pena-Hernandez said. “With several principals here, their biggest frustration is not having that coverage. I value it and I think it will bring certainly more subs to the district.”

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