Education, Local News

Teaching staffs in place but local districts need substitute teachers and bus drivers

Although many school districts across the nation are facing staffing shortages, Homewood-Flossmoor High School, Flossmoor District 161 and Homewood District 153 have been able to fill all their teacher positions. What’s lagging behind is substitute teachers and bus drivers.

Districts have been able to hire new staff to take the place of retirees and those who have left the districts’ teaching ranks, officials said. 

“We are fully staffed with teachers” at H-F High, said Carla Erdey, director of communications and community engagement. She said the district still needs to fill a few support staff positions.

In District 153, administrators were finalizing the hiring for a few positions. 


“We feel pretty confident for the start of school,” said Shelley Peck, PR director.

What’s in short supply at all three districts are substitute teachers. The rate for substitute teachers in District 153 is $125 per day. At H-F, pay is $90 to $138 per day, depending on the number of periods worked. In Flossmoor District 161, the rate is $115 per day for substitutes working up to 40 days in the district; $120 per day for those working 41 to 99 days; $125 per day for working more than 100 days. 

Eric Melnyczenko, the District 161 human resources director, said some of the district’s Summer Academy teachers stayed on as substitutes. Along with help from a staffing agency the district uses, Melnyczenko said he thinks they will have enough substitutes to cover everything this year. 

He also wants to make sure the positions are attractive enough to keep them filled.

“Some of our substitutes also work in multiple districts. We want to make sure our rates are competitive so they choose us first instead of going somewhere else,” Melnyczenko told the Chronicle. “In the next month or so I’ll be bringing some information to our board about whether we should increase our rate or leave it at the status quo.” 

Substitute teaching certificates can be obtained through the Region 7 Regional Office of Education at 253 W. Joe Orr Road in Chicago Heights. The office number is 708-754-6600.

There are two categories for substitutes. To qualify for a “short-term” substitute spot, the applicant only needs an associate’s degree or 60 hours of college coursework to get a license through the Illinois State Board of Education. The license is good for the school year. Short-term subs can teach up to five consecutive days per fill-in for a licensed teacher and must complete a district training prior to employment.

The state will issue a substitute teaching license to persons with a bachelor’s degree or higher. The license can be renewed for up to five years, and the substitute teacher can work for up to 90 days for a contracted teacher or up to 30 days when no teacher is under contract.

Additional information is at for Homewood schools, at for Homewood-Flossmoor High School and for Flossmoor District 161.

All three districts use Kickert Bus for transportation needs. Kickert has an employee shortage. That’s in keeping with the national trend. Many drivers quit when schools shut down for the 2020-21 school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When schools reopened in August 2021, Kickert couldn’t go back to the same level of service it had offered before the pandemic.

Late buses were a regular issue in Homewood District 153. This year, due to reduced staffing at Kickert, the usual eight bus routes for James Hart and Churchill Schools is being reduced to six routes.

Kickert also reduced H-F service last school year due to a staffing shortage. That reduced schedule will be the norm this year, Erdey said.

District 161 Assistant Superintendent Fran LaBella told the Chronicle she believes the district’s busing needs should be covered for the start of the academic year.

“Right now we believe we’re OK,” LaBella said. “Now I say that as I hold my breath, cross my fingers and my toes, and pray a whole rosary before we get to the first day of school, but I’ve been told my drivers are in place.”

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