A teacher shortage may be felt in classrooms across the country this fall, but the situation is much better in Evanston than in many other places.
In fact, thanks to aggressive recruiting that even includes a signing bonus for some hard-to-fill positions, Evanston/Skokie District 65 only has about 20 open positions left… down about 10 from where it was. just a few days ago. And the hope is to fill in as much of the remainder as possible.
“We moved forward pretty quickly,” says Deputy Superintendent Andalib Khelgati.
Khelgati, who was once Dewey Elementary’s principal, now oversees teacher recruitment.
He says 98% of the district’s more than 830 teaching positions are now filled.
That’s far better than the situation in many other areas, with the president of the School Superintendents Association telling the Washington Post, “I’ve never seen it this bad.”
In an effort to fill remaining teacher vacancies, as well as hire paraprofessionals and substitute teachers, District 65 will host a job fair on August 13, from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Joseph E. Hill Education Center, 1500 McDaniel Ave.
“We hire locally” for subs and full-time staff, Khelgati says.
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has certainly had an impact on the labor market.
The so-called “big quit” means some employees, not just teachers, took early retirement or changed careers.
With 60% of District 65’s workforce not living in Evanston, Khelgati says, lifestyle changes due to the pandemic have caused some employees to seek work closer to home.
“There is a lot more fluidity in the job market,” says Khelgati.
In addition, the jobs that are still open are, for the most part, positions that have been difficult to fill for years — special education and bilingual education.
District 65 even offers $5,000 sign-up bonuses to teachers who can combine both skills – bilingual special education.
Bilingual teachers, of course, must speak two languages, which eliminates a large part of the employment pool. In the fall, however, the district will have three bilingual principals, in Dewey, Dawes and Washington.
“It’s so gratifying” to have leaders like that, Khelgati says.
As for special education, with all its challenges, it requires, in Khelgati’s words, “a certain passion” to work with students who have special needs.
As part of its teacher residency program, where aspiring educators work in the district for a year and then are guaranteed employment, District 65 will target those interested in special education.
Also hard to find – preschool paraprofessionals, where salaries in any district are relatively low. District 65 has more than a dozen such openings.
And then there are the substitutes.
District 65 is rebranding them as “guest educators” and has brought hiring in-house instead of using a contractor as before.
Finding contractors has been particularly difficult during the pandemic, so we’re hoping the change in hiring structure will make it easier to hire people who want to fill the job.
Evanston Township High School has only ten openings listed for certified staff (teachers, librarians, etc.) for the upcoming school year.
Classes begin at ETHS on August 15 and in District 65 on August 24.
And don’t forget the job fair.
“If you’re not a teacher, invite a teacher you know,” Khelgati laughs. But he’s probably serious too.