Next school year, principals will only have to make one call to get substitute teachers into their empty classrooms.
Source4Teachers will do the rest.
The Atlanta-based company will begin managing the Beaufort County School District’s substitute and miscellaneous staffing programs in July, promising it will fill at least 95 percent of empty classes, a drastic improvement from the district’s 73 percent fill rate this past school year.
If Source4Teachers doesn’t meet that goal, Beaufort County can sever its contract — which is still being finalized — at any time.
The agreement should cost the district the same as its current substitute services, about $2 million per year, because Source4Teachers’ surcharge is about the same as the benefits the district was paying its subs, according to district chief finance and operations officer Phyllis White and spokesman Jim Foster.
School board member Earl Campbell worried at Tuesday’s regular meeting that contracting with the company would not solve the district’s severe substitute shortage because it doesn’t increase sub pay or expand the pool of available employees.
But fellow board member Geri Kinton responded that the time to talk salary increases had passed — the 2016-2017 budget is under review by Beaufort County Council — and White reassured him that if Source4Teachers does not meet expectations, the district can walk away.
The district has been grappling with empty classrooms for years, and had 22 long-term classroom teaching vacancies at the end of this school year, Foster said.
Human resources held their third annual interview blitz in October in the hopes of doubling the pool of available subs from about 250 to 500 people, but were only partially successful. The pool had just about 310 people by mid-November and 395 by the end of the year, according to Foster..
Often, the shortage forced full-time teachers to give up their free and planning periods to serve as substitutes. Two years ago, the district began paying teachers their hourly rate when they filled in, though some principals apparently didn’t get the memo until the Island Packet reported on the practice this past October.
By mid-November, the district had already paid teachers about $13,850 to fill in since the start of the school year. Foster could not say this week how much the practice cost for the whole of 2015-2016, but said the total should be covered by the substitute program’s $2 million budget.
Typically, Source4Teachers does not hire full-time district employees to perform substitute duties, said company spokesman Owen Murphy.
However, he added, “We make every effort to hire anyone who is already working as a sub within the district.”
The company was selected by an evaluation committee of two principals, a teacher, and staff from the finance and human resources departments, White said.
In addition to placing subs, it will be responsible for training its employees and covering any legal, insurance and workers-compensation expenses. Temporary teachers won’t be getting any more money from the school district, but Source4Teachers can choose to give its employees bonuses, incentives and benefits on top of the district’s salary scale, which offers $75 or $90 per full day depending on experience.
The Savannah-Chatham County Public School System also recently contracted with Source4Teachers, according to the company’s website. A hiring event at the Armstrong Center in Savannah is scheduled for June 28.