LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- The substitute teacher shortage at Clark County School District is reaching a critical point, and now leaders are looking outside of their own organization toward a solution, putting recruiting power into the hands of a private company.

The proposal was presented by Nadine Jones, the district's Chief Human Resources Officer, at CCSD's Aug. 26 board meeting. Her recommendation is to implement a partnership with third-party staffing company ESS by as soon as next month.

"The clear recommendation from our team is to contract with ESS to be our provider of substitute services," said Jones.

ESS claims to be partnered with more than 750 districts in 30 states.

Jones said the company has "a strong reputation for hiring and managing substitute teachers and support professionals for other K-12 organizations across the country."

In her presentation, Jones described the need for an intervention of sorts. And as was apparent in the presentation, when it comes to the substitute shortage at CCSD, the numbers tell the story.

In the 2019 to 2020 school year, CCSD's fill rate was over 82%. A fill rate is the percentage of teacher absences requiring a substitute that were in fact filled by a substitute.

Jones said things worsened this school year.

"With the onset of COVID, the fill rate issue was exacerbated," said Jones.

She said that upon returning to in person instruction this school year, the district's fill rate took a nosedive.

"Our average daily fill rate dropped to 62.4%," said Jones.

Multiple teachers have said they're being asked to cover each other's classes on top of their own, and often during their prep periods.

Still, CCSD officials said their district does have about 4,000 substitute teachers in its pool, and Superintendent Dr. Jesus Jara said he feels pay bumps have been considered.

"In the last budget year, the board authorized a salary increase for substitutes for the first time in 15 years," said Jara.

That raise went into effect after the new year, and it meant that substitute guest teachers who select jobs at standard sites, for example, got a pay increase from $90 per day to $110 per day.

One woman said she substitute taught at the district for many years, but left because of insufficient pay.

"It's not very competitive," said Brittany Richey. "I've found that I can make more money babysitting than substitute teaching."

But the top concern for most, according to Jones, is benefits, or the lack thereof.

"The opportunity for benefits is something we've heard as a repeated request for substitute teachers," said Jones. "In our current program, substitutes can earn benefits, but after working an entire school year and thirty hours."

As she explained, the company would hire on all of CCSD's current subs. In turn, they would be eligible for the company's benefits plan, instead of relying on the district.

"Any substitute who works at least 28 hours per week, or four days, are eligible for benefits after two months or less, and they have five benefit options to choose from," said Jones. "Providing for more opportunities for benefits sooner than it is currently available to them, in exchange for a commitment to work more hours, which will in turn better service our students and schools."

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