U-46 School District Launches Program to Help Education Support Staff Become Teachers, School Nurses, and More

BARTLETT, Ill. (WLS) – District U-46, the second-largest school district in Illinois, has launched a new program that reimburses district employees for tuition to become teachers or perform work that the district has greatly needed.

Laura Taets drove a bus for U-46 for 14 years and said now that her children are older she is a reader for another challenge. The 43-year-old wants to be a teacher.

“I can do more. More for the community, more for the U-46,” Taets said.

When she mentioned the idea to Superintendent Tony Sanders, he said he would consider it. He was looking for an incentive to attract and retain employees in a competitive market.

This week, he presented the reimbursement program, for employees from bus drivers to secretaries. District teachers have their own incentives for continuing education. In fact, tuition reimbursement helped the superintendent get his doctorate in March.

“I wouldn’t be superintendent of this district if it wasn’t for the tuition reimbursement that the board put in place for me,” Sanders said.

But it’s a relatively new concept for other education support workers.

Registered nurse Lizz LaRue has her bachelor’s degree, but needs 10 course credit hours to get her school nurse certification. She was one of the first to apply for the reimbursement program.

“It allows us who don’t teach to have opportunities to grow and give back,” she said.

LaRue estimated that tuition for the courses she needs would cost around $8,000. The district council has allocated $1.4 million for the program’s first year. Sanders said the district needs employees in a number of positions, and filling them with staff already working in the district benefits everyone.

“This is for bus drivers, para-educators, support staff who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to return to school,” he said.

Employees can apply for the program starting Thursday. If accepted, classes begin in the fall.

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