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School board delays substitute teacher vote

Posted: May 9, 2013 5:13 p.m.
Updated: May 10, 2013 5:00 a.m.

 

A decision to hire a corporate staffing agency to provide substitute teachers in the Kershaw County School District (KCSD) will wait a little longer. The Kershaw County Board of School Trustees decided to put off a vote to hire Kelly Services at its meeting Tuesday night.

Trustees originally learned about how the agency would recruit, hire, train and send substitute teachers into district classrooms at an April 30 facilities/finance meeting. The board decided to delay Tuesday’s vote until it could receive more information about how hiring Kelly Services would impact the district’s budget. Trustees determined they did not have enough financial data to determine if hiring the agency would be wise.

Several trustees said they liked the services Kelly could provide. KCSD Chief Financial Officer Donnie Wilson and Dr. Connie Long, the district chief financial officer and assistant superintendent of human resources, said moving to a third party to hire substitutes would help relieve school-based clerical staff, such as front desk attendants, from the extra task of having to find substitutes for teachers. Each school is different however; some teachers have to find their own substitutes while others call front desk staff. Clerical staff is given “comp time” or paid overtime to make up for any extra time they spent trying to find a substitute, Wilson said. Teachers would be able to call Kelly Services for a substitute or request one online. Kelly Services would set up a substitute, but would not send them until they had a confirmation from the individual school that he or she was acceptable for a particular classroom.

Trustee Nissary Woods asked why the district looking at this type of service now? She said it seemed to her that the district is just letting another party take control of the district’s pool of substitutes.

Wilson agreed Kelly Services is a business that looks to make a profit, but does so by doing things more efficiently than the district can. There would be a 43 percent markup to contract through Kelly Services, but they “take off costs” with savings opportunities associated with payroll costs, unemployment costs and worker’s compensation costs. The district would not incur any of those costs, in addition to being able to hand off associated insurance expenses and retirement costs if they used Kelly Services. If a substitute works more than 30 hours in a KCSD school, the district also has to pay for their insurance. Wilson said Kelly Services would adhere to the Affordable Care Act.

There would be no recruiting, screening or training costs, and the district could “reallocate” staff functions and reduced human resource management time issues, according to a Kelly Services handout. Kelly would analyze and attempt to reduce “absenteeism trends” in addition to providing forecasting reports for the district. Kelly recruits year round and provides incentives to keep its substitute pool from being classroom no-shows.

“We take all of the work off you from start to finish,” a Kelly representative said.

In some cases, Wilson said the district could pay 20 to 36 percent in addition to salary for substitutes, but is always 43 percent for Kelly services. Kelly Services provides substitutes for school districts in Rock Hill; and Berkley, Chester and York counties. Reallocating costs would help the district financially in the long term, Wilson said. The substitutes would also get benefits from working for Kelly Services, including opportunities for summer work and 401K options.

Long said her office has looked into contracting substitute teachers for about five years. Budget cuts didn’t allow a similar service until now, so her office took the opportunity to look further into what a third party could provide.

“Teachers and Teacher Cabinet members often ask ‘Why do I have to call my own subs?’” Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan said.

Morgan mentioned Sub-Finder as another, previously suggested program, but said it costs $250,000. Principals want more secretarial time, he said which is an issue.

“Certainly the board has to be comfortable with it; certainly the board has to approve it. I think it is a solid move,” Morgan said. “This will save us not just hard costs, but soft costs over time and it will also alleviate some significant inequities in the schools in terms of who get subs. I think it is inefficient to have the four teachers who are sick or teachers whose kids are sick calling the same subs. I think that’s really inefficient that a substitute is getting four or five calls from the same people.”

Morgan said the program is cost neutral. Soft costs would include secretarial time in school and district offices. Long said the district doesn’t train substitutes as well as it could, because it doesn’t have the time or resources for training. All state requirements for substitutes currently being handled by the district would be handled by Kelly Services and it would be able to offer better feedback about substitute performance, she said.

Trustee Louis Clyburn said teachers he’s talked to think using Kelly Services would be “great.” Clyburn suggested that the board try Kelly Services for one year to see what happens. Trustee Matt Irick said using Kelly Services will benefit substitute teachers by allowing them to get work in other districts. 

Trustee Derrick Proctor said he’s not against using Kelly Services, but was concerned because a lot of teachers have preferences about which substitutes come into the class because of the working relationship they cultivate. He was also concerned about how substitutes are reprimanded for missing days from the classroom. A Kelly Services representative said a teacher can have their favorites substitutes set up online and request one of them electronically or through a phone call to Kelly. The representative said the district doesn’t have to pay anything upfront, and would pay on a per substitute basis. They also said Kelly does not work on quotas, but can use substitutes in short-term positions with other companies because many of them have degrees and “other skills.”

Board Chair Mara Jones said she supports using Kelly Services’ substitute program because of her experience trying to find substitutes in the past. Trustee Don Copley said he doesn’t question that Kelly could provide a more efficient service, but that cost is an issue. If the service was budget neutral, it would be a “no-brainer,” he said.

“This is the difference between having lobster and cube steak. Of course, I would take the lobster, but it also depends on my budget,” Copley said. “As we come out of the economic problems that we’ve had over the last few years, we now have better funding. My concern is that we don’t choose lobster just because it looks really good. This 43 percent mark-up is probably in my mind not that huge if are normal mark up would by up to 30 percent, but I’m not sure I’ve been given enough data to make sure are priority is to buy the lobster, or if our priority to do something else. I want to make sure we aren’t spending too much money on this. If I’m buying lobster I want to know that my credit card limit will allow it.”

Copley wanted more economic data to determine whether the mark up is worth it. It comes down to choosing priorities, Copley said, adding that it may be a better option to hire more secretaries to find substitutes, in addition to taking on some other tasks.

Wilson said he could provide data on what the district paid last year in substitute salary and mark-up costs and compare that to what it would have paid Kelly Services for the same period. The goal was not to reduce costs, Wilson said, but to make the whole system more efficient and to do it with “zero increase.”

Trustee Ron Blackmon asked what he said was “the million dollar questions:” is Kelly Services’ price negotiable? A Kelly representative said the long-term substitute rate is negotiable, but was not sure how negotiable other costs would be.

Proctor also expressed concern about whether or not district employees’ moral would be affected upon learning the district is contracting out yet another service. The district previously contracted out custodial services. “What’s next?” is a question trustees should be prepared for, Proctor said, and that communicating these changes would be important.

The district pays $55 per hour to substitutes without bachelors degrees, $65 per hour to ones with a bachelors degree, and $75 per hour if they are teacher certified. Kelly Services said a decision by June 1 would be ideal to appropriately prepare for the next school year, although they could “pull things together” after that.

In other news, trustees voted to improve guidance services based on the work by KCSD staff and community members.

 

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