Clark-Pleasant schools needs to fill about 40 positions, ranging from athletic coaches to classroom teachers to food service workers.
While the actual number of open vacant positions is 42, some new hires will be tasked with filling more than one open spot. Some bus drivers and custodians also serve as substitute teachers, meaning the number of employees Clark-Pleasant wants to hire is closer to 40, said John Schilawski, the district’s director of human resources.
One of the major reasons behind the shortage may be wage competition from other industries, he said.
“We believe the movement was driven by wages. You can see the yard signs and billboards for various factories and warehouses posting jobs beginning at $15 an hour,” Schilawski said. “We wanted to provide a way people can again decide about the type of work environment they want to have. We’ve tried to narrow that gap in order for people to say, ‘I really want to be in education and impact kids and work in schools.’ But at the time, there was such a drastic difference between school wage and industry. It forced people to make decisions based on wages.”
The district raised its minimum wage to $15 an hour from $11.55 in August. Though Clark-Pleasant was down more than 60 positions in September, it was able to fill about 20 of them, and the wage increase may be the reason behind many of those vacancies being filled, he said.
Of the 40, nine are custodial positions, according to district data.
“We’re having difficulties getting custodians who are able to cover the buildings and we’ve got that high turnover rate,” Schilawski said. “Kids, staff and the community rightfully expect good, clean facilities. Everyone expects the best for their kids, and we want the best for their kids too. When you have the size of the facilities we have, one person every day is not going to meet those needs.”
To maintain the cleanliness of its buildings, the district has paid overtime to other employees, such as transportation workers, to complete custodial duties. Administrators are also working on a program that would pay high schoolers to be custodians during non-school hours, he said.
“One of the things we’re focusing on, it’s their first job, an introductory job, providing them with life skills opportunities,” Schilawski said. “They’re just like any substitute employees we might have. They will be real employees working in school. We want to make sure they have a positive experience and can build their resumes and move to other opportunities outside the school.”
While teacher salaries are still being negotiated, the school board voted to increase the daily wage for substitute teachers to $85 from $75 earlier this year. However, the district is still down four substitutes.
“When there’s not enough subs, you have to find someone to cover, either adding more onto a teacher’s plate by having someone cover additional time in someone’s classroom, or by pulling an instructional assistant or someone (who) has other things to do,” Schilawski said.
The district is also advertising job openings on social media, and has a website with job listings for interested applicants.
“We’re pushing hard on advertising and we’re also exploring what it is people are looking for in their jobs and careers,” Schilawski said. “Right now, there is a big push on the actual wage, but we’re also finding people are seeking meaning and purpose in what they’re doing. I think that’s why people are becoming more attracted to us, because we’ve narrowed the financial gaps. They’re working positions where they may not necessarily feel that meaning and purpose.”