Jacksonville School District 117 is working to combat the continued teacher shortage and renewed a policy waving tuition in certain instances.
In what has become a regular policy in many districts, the District 117 board of education unanimously approved a waiver of rules of the school code to allow its full-time employees who do not live within the District to register their children in 117 schools tuition-free.
Superintendent Steve Ptacek says the waiver is an action the board has taken for the past five years and he says really what the board is doing is trying to attract individuals to come work for the district and have the benefit of having their kids come to District 117.
It’s a move that Ptacek says has paid off. “We have multiple staff members who live in other districts and come to our district and bring their kids with them. Whether it’s that they want to come to our schools or they just want their kids to be in the same district they are in., I don’t know. I do know that if we didn’t have that right now it would be a burden in attracting and maintaining some staff.
It has become a norm for districts to offer that. I have not done the research but I would figure the vast majority of districts, if not all, have that waiver on file in our area. Because for one, finding staff is such a tough part of our job right now, that anything we can do to attract and keep high-quality staff we’re going to keep doing.”
Ptacek says the waiver allows the children of out-of-district staff to attend without their having to pay the fair share equivalent of the property tax payment as tuition.
Ptacek says overall, District 117 is in better shape when it comes to staffing than many districts however, they are still feeling the brunt of a shortage of teachers. “Well, we still have positions that are not filled that we are filling with substitutes- long-term subs. But compared to other districts throughout the region and the state, we are in a very good position.
If you have a teaching certificate, apply. We’ll try to find you a job. But I think that’s a direct statement on both our pay and just on the overall culture that we have in the district of partnership and working together. But, I’m not going to be naive and not understand that pay is a big part of that. And that’s why we’re still talking about ways to increase our pay.”
This month District 117 crossed the one-year mark of receiving internet-based sales tax, which Ptacek says just adds to the financial security of the district following the sales tax referendum that was passed in 2014. He says the board will have continued discussion in the near future on how to possibly increase wages and work to make District 117 an attractive place to work.
In other news from the regular board meeting last night, Ptacek announced that the Jacksonville High School graduation will be back to normal this year for the first time since the start of the Covid pandemic.
“Yes, we talked about it the first time [tonight]. It’s not been out officially but yes, graduation is going to be a normal graduation this year. It’s time to get back to normal as much as possible.”
The 2022 Jacksonville High School Graduation is Friday, May 20th at 7:00 pm
at the JHS Bowl, and all are invited to attend.