Flossmoor School District 161 is contracting with an outside agency to fill one vacant healthcare coordinator position and two other jobs with leaves on the horizon, but administrators are hoping some bonuses will help stoke interest in the full-time spot.
The school board voted 6-0 on Monday, March 8, as part of its consent agenda to approve a contract with Maxim Healthcare Services. The agency is to provide a nurse to fulfill the open position of health coordinator for Heather Hill School through the rest of the school year, as well as temporarily fill the roles of two district-employed speech pathologists who are expected to take leaves of absence in May and August.
Board Member Cameron Nelson was not on the Zoom call at the time of the vote.
The district agreed to pay the following rates for any help it gets from the agency: $65 per hour for a licensed practical nurse, $68 per hour for a registered nurse and $90 per hour for a speech language pathologist, according to the agreement.
In a report to the board, Jackie Janicke, the district’s director of special education, noted the district has been “unable” to hire a health coordinator for Heather Hill. Interviews were done, but no candidates elected to take the position, which is why the district is utilizing help from an outside agency. She also noted that, “historically,” it has been hard to find substitutes for specialty positions, which is a concern with the leaves on the horizon.
Board Member David Linnear asked about the approach the district is taking to address those hiring challenges in the future. Superintendent Dana Smith noted in 2019 District 161 staff reviewed salaries for all building health staff.
“They’re competitive,” he said. “As a whole, education is not nearly as competitive as being in a hospital. … We do lose a lot of people, frankly, to the medical setting.”
Smith also said Homewood-Flossmoor High School offers a more competitive package. He called the contracts “good short-term fixes,” but he is hoping offering bonuses will help the district cast a wider net.
As part of the consent agenda, the board also approved offering a referral bonus of $500 to any district employee who helps the district hire a successful health coordinator for Heather Hill. To be considered a “successful” hire, the new employee would have to complete at least one year of employment with District 161.
That measure also offers a $1,000 sign-on bonus to the health coordinator, divided into two payments of $500 — one after six months of employment and the other after a year.
In the news business
The school board also recognized the first issue of the District 161 Newspaper at the meeting. The paper is to be created quarterly by a club. It includes current events, staff and student spotlights, class projects, and happenings during virtual learning.
Heather Hill teacher Laura DeBiasio, who serves as the club’s sponsor, said it was an awesome opportunity to be part of the project. She also noted she was pleased with the results.
“It looks really, really cool to see it up on a screen now,” she said.
The student participants include: Brielle Atkinson, Aidan Brumfield, Natalie Byszewska, Ruby Duckett, Jazlyn Godinez-Reyes, Madisyn Hamilton, Ella Linde, Shane McGathey, Cameron Murrah, Madeline Murrah, Jakobi Pittman, Madeline Schwartz, Arthur Williams, Graysen Woodberry and Benjamin Wool.
DeBiasio said they have done the project remotely and put in a lot of work to complete the first issue.
“I really can’t say enough good things,” she said. “These kids showed up every week.”
They generated their own ideas, collected data, wrote stories and interviewed each other for “meet the staff” profiles.
“We wanted to make it engaging … but we didn’t want it to be more stressful than remote learning already is,” she said.
The next time around, they will be designing their own pages.
“With each passing month, we’re adding a new skill,” DeBiasio said.
The District 161 Technology Department was recognized with March’s #AboveandBeyond honor, which recognizes hard work and dedication to the district. A video highlighting the team was played during the meeting.
Lennard Razor, the district’s director of technology, said his team has had to make numerous changes this year. He was happy to see them recognized.
“We’re just lucky to have a great staff,” he said. “Everybody’s just been going above and beyond, really stepping up to the plate.”
The Technology Team includes Steve Reid, Andre Causey, Deborah Lang Doyle, Darrell Judon, Carrie Riley, Carla Evans, John Gonzalez, Paula Webster and Jean Davis.