“Dear Retired Teacher,

“We understand you just wrapped up 30 years of dealing with middle schoolers, but would you mind coming back, at least part time?”

Okay, that’s not the exact wording of a letter going out from Evanston/Skokie School District 65.

But in an effort to address the ongoing shortage of substitute teachers, the district is planning to contact all retired D65 teachers and ask if they would return as subs.

Assistant Superintendent Andalib Khelgati told a School Board committee Monday that the district will also look into providing benefits and in some cases, increasing pay for substitute teachers.

Benefits are not normal for part-time workers such as subs, but Khelgati told the committee that a substitute told him District 65 once did provide them, so he will at least look into the possibility and the cost.

Khelgati also conceded that Evanston does pay substitutes less than some nearby districts do. The job search site indeed.com says the average Evanston substitute teacher makes $17.25 per hour, which works out to $138 for an eight-hour day.

Khelgati said that money is often not the main motivator for substitute teachers. Rather, they often just want to feel “connected” to the community.

However, if other districts are paying more for that connection, money is not irrelevant either.

Khelgati said that Oak Brook schools are paying substitutes $200 a day, something District 65 does not normally do until a sub has been working for 15 days.

However, he said 65 will sometimes start subs at $200 if it is for a particularly hard to fill discipline.

The substitute teacher shortage is happening everywhere. Board Vice-President Biz Lindsay-Ryan wondered if the state could waive required fees that substitute teachers have to pay, as a way of increasing their income.

In the pre-pandemic era, District 65 officials have said they were able to fill 85% of the daily need for substitutes. But this fall, it’s only been around 60%.

It’s a problem with no easy solution, one which ripples through a school building every day, as administrators may have to cover a class, and then that administrator’s work backs up.

“We are asking everyone to sub,” Lindsay-Ryan said.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.