Board of Ed considers outsourcing substitute teachers

BY LISA CAPOBIANCO

STAFF WRITER

The Board of Education is looking into the possibility of outsourcing the hiring of substitute teachers.

During a recent Board of Education meeting, Bristol Superintendent of Schools Dr. Ellen Solek recommended the possibility of signing a contract with Kelly Services, a national company that handles the hiring of certified teaching staff in schools.

About a year ago, the district began to engage in informal discussions with the team of Kelly about the possibility of utilizing its services to better serve students in the district, said Solek.

Solek said administrators and teachers throughout the district have scrambled to cover classes because the pool of available substitute teachers is limited.

“There has been a history in Bristol Public Schools of difficulty in adequately covering our classrooms with well-trained, well-qualified substitute teachers for all of the interruption in regular school instruction that occur throughout the year,” said Solek.

In 2014-2015, Solek said substitute expenditures were $738,937, and is projected next year to be $750,000 if the district does not decide to pursue Kelly Services.

“Between the cost of time, dollars and valuable personnel, we find over time that our inability to really service our classroom students and teachers with adequate sub-coverage is a costly one.”

If the board decides to move forward with Kelly Services, Solek said there could be some cost-saving opportunities for the district even though substitute expenditures would be projected at $784,000. Solek said right now the district prepare payroll, reallocate staff, paying FICA, Medicare, and other costs for long-term substitute teachers who work 38 hours or more weekly. In addition, the district manages a software company called Aesop, which helps schedule substitutes during the year.

“Our total cost right now to bring subs into the district on our own is $107,173,” said Solek, adding Kelly Services also would take care of coverage costs associated with the Affordable Care Act for subs. “If that is put against the projected cost to go with Kelly Services at $784,000, our net benefit is about $72,000 per year.”

Eileen Candels, vice president and district manager of Kelly Services in the Greater Hartford market, said the company has worked with 45 school districts statewide. Kelly Services recruit, screen, employ, schedule and manage substitute teachers, paraprofessionals and teacher’s aides in grades K through 12, and is the largest employer of substitute teachers nationwide. Kelly helps employees by offering technical, payroll and customer service support as well as scheduling flexibility and conveniently finds a position via phone or Internet to search and accept an assignment 24/7. Kelly also gives paid training on employment and district policies/procedures, and ensures that employees are prepared on day one by providing a specialized training program legally compliant with all current federal and state legislation for substitute teachers.

From partnerships with the military and the AARP to social media to referrals, Kelly Services recruits certified subs in a variety of ways, said Candels.

Candels said Kelly Services conducts not only a one-on-one behavioral interview for candidates, but also runs a criminal background screening before a substitute ever steps into a classroom. They will receive a free professional online training program on classroom management techniques and teaching strategies before entering the classroom as well as paid training on employment and district policies and procedures so they know what to expect and what is expected.

Candels said the company’s goal is to have more than double the number of people each district may need on a given day.

Once a substitute teacher is hired, Kelly Services continues open communication with the district to receive feedback on the sub’s performance in the classroom. In the event of an issue, Candels said the company takes responsibility for determining whether it can be corrected or if the substitute teacher should be removed from the district.

“It’s our responsibility as an employer to get the input on what occurred,” said Candels.

If the board moves forward with the company, Kelly Services would charge the district’s per diem rate, in addition to a small markup. If the per diem was $80 a day, the markup would be 1.39 percent on top of that, said Candels.

Board of Education Chairman Larry Amara said privatizing different services seems to be the way things are evolving at this point.

“This district, along with other districts, are looking to privatize a lot of different things,” said Amara. “You can do these things a lot better, more efficiently and effective than we can.”

Sam Galloway, director of human resources for Bristol Public Schools, said finding a way to fill substitute positions has been a struggle for school principals throughout the district.

“From day to day, [principals] are really not sure what the lineup is going to look like in their school. Sometimes the shortage has impacted professional development, meetings they had planned, instructional meetings,” said Galloway.

The board’s personnel committee plans to review moving forward with Kelly Services further in depth.