Naperville District 203 considers pay bump for substitute teachers to help with fill rate 

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Naperville School District 203 is considering a pay bump for substitute teachers to help address staffing needs.

In the first half of the current school year, Naperville School District 203 officials were able to fill substitute teacher staffing needs 87% of the time, according to information shared at a recent board of education meeting.

Bob Ross, chief human resources officer, shared the data point at a meeting Monday, Feb. 9, during a broader discussion of proposed hourly pay rates for positions not represented by collective bargaining groups.

“That’s not great,” Ross said. “That sub rate should be 100%.”

Sub shortage has been on the rise in District 203

Ross did not have historical data at the recent board meeting to compare the current figure to prior years. But he did indicate the fill rate has been on the decline in recent years.

When District 203 is unable to bring in a substitute for a class, in-house teachers are commonly assigned to fill the vacancy with additional compensation. But doing so commonly requires the teacher to forfeit a prep period or collaborative meetings with colleagues.

“It used to be something that happened once in a blue moon,” Ross said. “It absolutely has been happening more regularly than it had before. I would rather that not be happening.”

Part of a broader trend

As is the case with a number of schools across the U.S., District 203 officials have been experiencing labor shortages in some teaching positions. This reportedly has been especially true of substitutes since fresh-out-of-college graduates are frequently employed immediately, rather than starting out a career as a substitute.

To combat the challenges, District 203 has attempted several strategies in recent years to stem the tide of substitute teacher staffing shortages. One such method is surge pay.

“It’s exactly what it sounds like,” Ross said. “We borrowed it from our friends at Uber. Whenever we think — or whenever we know, from history, or other sources — that there’s a day where our sub rate is higher than it might normally be, we’ll offer a surge day that provides additional pay.”

District 203 also has been offering incentives to lure retirees back into the fold at a higher rate of pay — a daily rate of $175, which is higher than the base daily rate of $125.

“That is a very new development, just about a year ago, in an effort to encourage our retirees to come back and help us,” Ross said.

Challenges not withstanding, Superintendent Dan Bridges said District 203 does have a large pool of qualified substitutes who are able to fill positions at the various elementary, junior high and high schools.

“We have 600-something-plus subs within our pool right now,” Bridges said.

$5 daily increase proposed for 2024-2025 school year

In the upcoming school year, District 203 administrators are proposing a $5 bump in the hopes the increase will ensure competitiveness with neighboring school systems and to keep abreast of other factors, such as the state’s rising minimum wage.

If the board moves forward with the plan as pitched, half-day substitute teacher staffing would increase from $62.50 to $65, and a full day assignment would increase from $125 to $130.

“Our position, relative to other districts, I think, is comfortable,” Ross said of District 203’s comparative substitute teacher pay rate. “We wouldn’t want to go too many years without keeping an eye on that.”

The board of education could act on the substitute teacher pay rate and increases in other hourly positions at the next meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 20.

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