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NORMAL — Mark Jontry has bad news for folks looking to make quick cash by becoming a substitute teacher.

“Before you’ve subbed one day, you’re out $210, not counting the physical,” said Jontry, regional superintendent of education for McLean, DeWitt and Livingston counties. “Fewer people are willing to do it.”

As a result, local districts are in serious need of candidates to become substitutes — a position that offers some complications but also above-minimum-wage work with flexible timing for adults with college degrees. Normal-based McLean County Unit 5, for example, will have a substitute teacher fair Friday. 

"The barrier is the (upfront) cost... (but) it's a good opportunity with a convenience factor," said Unit 5 Superintendent Mark Daniel of serving as a substitute. "We're looking to incentivize it."

Part of its pitch beyond the pay are rewards such as a pipeline to full-time employment and possible repayment of upfront fees.

The district also is focusing on communicating better with substitutes to make them feel more comfortable in the classroom.

District administrators acknowledge increasing base pay for substitutes is the most simple way to attract more, but they aren't considering that because of their dire financial situations.

Unit 5's daily pay for substitutes, $80 for the average worker, is similar to other local districts, including Bloomington District 87, LeRoy, Lexington and Stanford-based Olympia.

Instead, districts rely on word of mouth, advertising and the Regional Office of Education's annual fall substitute teacher fair to recruit candidates despite increasing licensing fees and declines in the local unemployment rate.

Herschel Hannah, assistant superintendent of human resources for District 87, said the district plans to use advertising in local media to increase its substitute pool of 167.

“Typically we have a lot of folks come in seeking opportunities, but this year we don’t have that,” he said. “Ideally we’d be around the 200 number. That gives us a greater degree of flexibility."

For large districts like Unit 5 and District 87, having enough substitutes is about more than sheer numbers — 316 for Unit 5, for example — because some substitutes have limited availability.

Hannah hopes local districts can help each other in their recruitment efforts.

“(We) encourage subs to work in other districts. ... When candidates make that kind of investment, they need to look at how to maximize it," he said. 

Unit 5's substitute teacher fair is set for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at its administrative office, 1809 W. Hovey Ave.


Normal and McLean County Reporter

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