This school year, the Denton Independent School District had more absences than substitute teachers to fill vacancies.
In 2016-2017 there have been 35,573 employee absences, which is approximately 3,000 more than last year. The majority of these absences are teachers, but also include bus drivers, custodian, and cafeteria workers. Only 31,688 of those vacancies were filled.
"The students build a rapport with their teachers," said Mario Zavala, a district spokesman. "Teachers impact students' lives just as much as their parents in some cases. So, if a kindergartner has grown attached to Mrs. Smith or Mrs. Williams, and she's gone for a month, it's going to impact them. You want to fill that role with someone who is there consistently."
When classrooms do not have a teacher or substitute, students are split up and put into different classrooms for the day. Sustaining a quality substitute teacher base has been a recent concern. Recruitment has also been an issue.
Administrators believe Education Solution Services, a staffing agency, can remedy the problem.
ESS would take over the district's substitute program and use its resources to recruit. Under ESS, substitute teachers would start off making $70.00 per day. Teachers would also be eligible for benefit packages and incentive programs.
"We see the program as a benefit," said Zavala. "The city of Denton is growing and so is our school district. We believe ESS can help meet that demand."
Denton would be the first district in Texas to work with ESS. Board members will take a deciding vote Dec. 12.