Substitutes outsourced to Kelly Services


Substitute teacher Drew Mueller takes attendance of Mr. Dickmeyer’s AP Psychology class. Mueller is the long-term substitute in Dickmeyer’s absence. Photo by Paige Kiehl

Adam Schoelz


Substitute teacher Drew Mueller takes attendance of Mr. Dickmeyer’s AP Psychology class. Mueller is the long-term substitute in Dickmeyer’s absence. Photo by Paige Kiehl
When a teacher gets sick at RBHS, all students see is a substitute instead of their normal instructor. Behind the scenes, however, a scramble takes place as secretary Denise McGonigle hurries to find a replacement.Currently at RBHS, McGonigle handles all substitute requests, but that will change as CPS contracts with Kelly Services for administration of substitutes. Principal Mark Maus said the switch will be nearly invisible to students in classrooms, with only more familiar faces marking the difference.
“I don’t think you’d see a difference with students. You could if they were permanent subs. Let’s say they were assigned to a building,” Maus said. “You may see that person every single day of the year in the building. I think that last year we only had one, maybe two days when we didn’t have a substitute in the building, to give you a perspective.”
Kelly Services, taking control January 2, 2013, is a national company partnered with over 2900 schools in 35 states, according to a memo sent to all staff members Monday. All substitutes will be employed by Kelly and will enjoy numerous benefits including optional insurance benefits and a 401(k).
McGonigle said she’s a little wary of the speed of the change. She only found out about the shift after trying to find a sub for a teacher in May 2013. Unable to use the current system to resolve the issue, the district informed McGonigle that the old system will not be available in the spring.
“That makes me nervous. And we will not have the current system that we’ve always had which is Subfinder,” McGonigle said. “We’re going to have a whole new way of processing when teachers are absent … that means all my subs have to be hired by this Kelly Services in two months.”
Two months is too long for social studies teacher Dan Ware. He said contracting out substitutes to Kelly Services would help teachers who have to get out of school in a rush. For instance, last year Ware’s partner teacher Lacy Stroessner was pregnant, and there were numerous times, he said, when getting a substitute was a scramble.
“As she neared her due date there were an increasing number of times where she wasn’t able to come in and because that was real last minute they weren’t able to fill her job,” Ware said. “Generally they were able to figure it out, if not at the beginning of the day by second or third block.”
When the substitution is truly last-minute, Maus said another teacher would step into the room, at the cost of their own planning time. Frustrated with this system, he said, CPS started looking at alternatives.
“We looked at other models and one of those other models is actually in place in Springfield,” Maus said. “A difference would be that, say we have a 95 percent fill rate with substitutes, they have a 99.9. So very rarely they ever have an opening.”
McGonigle said she’s hopeful the transition will be seamless as the current system, with an average of five to 10 teachers gone per day, makes it very hard to organize substitutes effectively.
“I have to get out my master schedule and I have to figure out who is going to teach that class every period of the day … it’s like a big puzzle,” McGonigle said.
Maus said it is unclear whether the switch will save or cost the district money. But the contract is being taken very seriously from a fiscal standpoint, and Maus said the district was prepared to absorb any cost differences with the bond/levy passed last year.
The bond/levy “gave us additional funds and gave us the ability — at Rock Bridge we added two positions back that we hadn’t had before, which is huge for us. And other schools were able to add positions back that they didn’t have previously,” Maus said. “We think that it’s a sustainable model although we know that fiscally we’re year to year.”
Ware said his only qualm with the program would be a permanent contract. However, he admitted such partnerships have worked out in the past.
“Personally, I’m always a little bit leery when you’re making exclusive contracts and things like that just because you never know,” Ware said. “This could be one of those things like how we’ve contracted with First Student for transportation where it might actually save us money.”
The advantages of the program far outweigh any problems from Maus’ perspective. He said contracting with another company will allow retired teachers, who make up a substantial number of substitutes, to work unlimited hours, and most substitutes who are now working for CPS would simply be hired by the outside company.
“One thing of having another company do it, an advantage is that currently our retired teachers who a lot of times will be our substitute—will many times be substitute teachers because of the retirement system, are limited to working 550 hours over a calendar year,” Maus said. “This would allow them to work as many hours as they want. Our subs would be hired by this other group so no one would necessarily lose a position.”
By Adam Schoelz