District 65 Curriculm & Policy Committee.

Evanston/Skokie School District 65 needs paraprofessionals (or teachers’ aides, as they used to be called).

The district’s job board lists 24 paraprofessional vacancies, and the school system is holding a virtual job fair on Dec. 15.

The issue was discussed on Monday afternoon, in the school board’s Curriculum and Policy Committee.

Assistant Superintendent Andalib Khelgati said District 65 is not alone in needing paraprofessionals.

There’s a “national shortage,” he said. The good news, he added, is that 15 people have already signed up for the job fair.

Perhaps the biggest need, both for paraprofessionals and for teachers, is in special education, an always-hard-to-fill area.

Data presented Monday showed that District 65 has 1,037 students with Individualized Education Plans for special ed, 16% of the 6618 students pre-K through grade 8.

165 of those students with IEPs have moved into the district this year, so the need for staff to work with them is growing.

A change in state policy could help in recruiting.

Effective Jan. 1, paraprofessionals can obtain a short-term license even if they do not have a college degree. The candidate still needs a high school diploma, and will have to pass certain tests, but the two-year associate’s degree normally required can be bypassed.

Besides paraprofessionals, the need for special education teachers is significant.

With that in mind, District 65 is initiating a program in which current teachers can obtain a special education license through an online program with North Park University.

Up to 25 teachers can take part, and there is no shortage of those wanting to sign up.

Assistant Superintendent Romy DeCristofaro said that 125 employees have shown interest, and 60 came to a recent informational meeting.

The program will cost the district $3,000 per person. It begins in January, with the course work completed by June.

“This will give us a pool of candidates to fill some of our unfilled positions in the next school year,” DeCristofaro said.

The special education training program is the latest in District 65’s efforts to find staff “in-house.”

A teacher residency program, training and earning a teaching degree for college graduates without an education major, is in its second year, with eight participants.

The district is also starting a teacher apprenticeship program, where 10 paraprofessionals can earn course credits online for their four-year teaching degree/certification, while still on the job.

Board Member Soo La Kim said, “We’re doing a great job of growing our own” educators to deal with the shortage.

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

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