ESS South Central LLC, a substitute sourcing company, began recruiting substitutes in FISD in September. The company hired around 660 substitutes as of mid-February, said Anna Koenig, FISD’s managing director of human resources. FISD met its goal of a 1,500-2,000 substitute pool and increasing from the 1,000-1,100 substitutes it had in August.
“We truly believe that the company has definitely done what we’ve asked them to do,” she said.
The contract was meant to address FISD’s substitute teacher and aide shortages. Aides' absences were more difficult to fill due to their pay rates, per previous reporting by Community Impact Newspaper.
But in January, the district filled aide absences about 98% of the time. This is compared to last January where 66% of absences were filled.
Koenig said FISD is now focused on retaining substitutes by providing additional training.
“We’re still hoping to increase that certified substitute list, specifically in those hard-to-fill areas,” Koenig said.
These areas include foreign language, upper level science and long-term substitutes, she said.
Bus driver shortage improves, but more are sought for fall
The school district’s transportation department is closing the gap on its bus driver shortage, but officials said they anticipate increases in need with new schools and programs.
FISD was 21 drivers and seven monitors short at the beginning of this school year, FISD Transportation Director Douglas Becker said, but had lessened the shortage to 13 drivers in mid-February. However, FISD now has 10 monitor openings, he said.
FISD buses cover 75 miles, the district's Assistant Director of Transportation Roger Lents said.
In the 2020-21 school year, Emerson High School will open, and FISD will roll out full-day prekindergarten at eight elementary campuses and the Early Childhood School. This will add to the demand, Lents said.
“Once you have a child that’s eligible, we have to have a route,” he said regarding transport of full-day pre-K students.
To recruit bus drivers and monitors, the department has advertised online, on social media and in newspapers; put up fliers at FISD schools and hosted job fairs. The next job fair is March 28 at FISD’s Transportation West building.
Becker said the department will continue its current recruitment efforts.