This time last week, Ricardo, a furloughed federal employee from San Antonio, was sitting at home wondering when the partial government shutdown would end.
Tuesday, he spent the day substitute teaching 21 fifth graders.
“Where are you headed now?” Ricardo asked a student as he picked them up from computer class. TPR is only using Ricardo’s middle name due to the sensitive nature of his work with the federal government.
He said his first day has been pretty smooth, in part because he’s coached two of the students in a Catholic youth sports league.
Late last week, the Northside Independent School District hired Ricardo to work as a tutor and substitute teacher at his children’s school, where his wife also teaches.
He applied last Wednesday, the same day Northside posted a streamlined online application specifically for workers affected by the shutdown. North East ISD launched a similar hiring initiative Friday.
“A few hours later I received a call from the NISD (human resources) department asking if I’d like to come into their office,” Ricardo said. “The process was just so smooth and fast.”
By last Thursday he was hired.
In the week since Northside launched the application, the district has hired 16 federal employees and contractors, with more expected in the coming days.
Patty Hill, assistant superintendent for HR at Northside came up with the idea to hire furloughed federal employees and contractors.
She said some of the district’s 120 campuses had food drives to help families missing federal paychecks, but as the shutdown dragged on Northside wanted to do more.
“We’re so big and so we didn’t want these isolated pockets. We wanted to make sure it was a districtwide effort,” Hill said. “This just made mutual beneficial sense for us to do this.”
With 7,600 teachers in the district, Hill said Northside is always looking for more tutors, bus drivers, and substitutes.
“Even though we have 2,600 substitutes — on days like Fridays, Mondays — sometimes all of our jobs do not fill,” Hill said.
Gina Elliott with North East’s HR department said they are also always hiring. Both districts are waiving the $40-$50 background check fee for applicants affected by the shutdown. Depending on the position, hired temporary workers will be paid $75-$85 a day.
For Ricardo’s family, that’s enough to pay for a grocery bill or two. He said he’s grateful for the chance to stay busy.
“So far we’re OK. We’re OK (financially),” Ricardo said. “Not knowing when there is an end to the furlough, I kind of wanted to get a jump start and say, ‘You know what? Let me put my name out there and generate at least a second income for the time being.’ ”
With savings and his wife’s job, Ricardo said they’ll be OK for another month or two. But he knows other families are hurting now.
Camille Phillips can be reached at Camille@tpr.org or on Twitter @cmpcamille