The Evanston District 65 Finance Committee Monday night recommended that the School Board hire an outside firm to provide substitute teachers.

Beatrice Davis, assistant superintendent of human resources, said that the district has been able to fill about 65 percent of the need for substitute teachers because of a statewide substitute teacher shortage, despite having hired 131 substitute teachers over the course of the school year.

House Bill 4742 passed by the Illinois General Assembly in January allows school districts to use third party recruiting firms to provide substitute teachers.

Davis wants to contract with ESS, a Tennessee-based education recruiting and staffing company, to provide substitute teachers for the district starting this fall.

ESS currently serves about 650 school districts across 26 states and is new to Illinois, said Davis, and achieves a 90-95 percent fill rate at other districts.

“ESS would assume the majority of work associated with substitutes, including recruitment, onboarding, training, substitute assignments and payroll,” Davis said. ESS would provide an onsite account manager and a full transition team. The district would continue to filling leaves of absence for highly specialized positions, such as occupational therapists.

“We hope to hire a local account manager and get substitutes from Evanston and Skokie so we have a community-based substitute pool,” she said.

“ESS offers training and benefits that we can’t provide,” said Davis, adding that current district substitutes would be offered jobs at ESS.

The proposal would be cost neutral, with the cost of substitutes for the next school year comparable to the cost of contracting with ESS.

Board member Candance Chow asked if service level agreements are included in the contract, since failure to provide teachers as needed would be costly to the district.

Raphael Obafemi, chief financial and operations officer, said that if the company didn’t provide substitutes as needed “we will terminate the contract.”

‘There will be a cost to transitioning back to the old system,” said Chow.

Meg Krulee, president of the District 65 Educators’ Council, asked how the ESS substitutes would be evaluated.

Davis said she hoped the ESS  account manager would observe the substitutes and would accept feedback by teachers and administrators.

Board president Sunith Kartha asked if the substitutes would receive district-specific information on such things as equity and PBIS.

Davis said that the current substitutes would like training on restorative practices and that ESS is interested in such training and would pay for their teachers to attend.

Asked by board member Anya Tanyavutti about Beyond Diversity training for the new substitutes, Davis said they need to talk to ESS about that.

The finance committee approved sending the proposal to the full board by a 3-0 vote.

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