Source4Teachers is the right partner for the District
By Kendley Davenport on Nov 18, 2015 04:44 PM
For a number of years, the School District of Philadelphia has been challenged to recruit and place enough substitute teachers to cover its teacher absences. The percentage of classrooms covered by a substitute when a teacher was absent, commonly referred to as “fill rate,” hovered between 50 and 60 percent.
The District is not alone. Many districts throughout the country have been struggling to develop a large enough pool of substitutes to cover absences. Large urban districts, where teacher absences are noticeably more frequent, tend to be the most challenged. It’s an operational problem that requires considerable effort and resources, and most districts will readily admit they are ill-equipped to tackle the problem without outside help.
Recognizing the need to improve, in July 2015, the School District awarded a contract to Source4Teachers to develop and manage a substitute program that would not only remedy the low fill-rate problem, but also serve as the foundation for a more sustainable long-term solution.
As the leader of Source4Teachers, I want to publicly acknowledge that we have underperformed. We’ve got to do better. We will do better.
We knew this would be one of the biggest challenges our company has ever faced, but we’re confident that Source4Teachers is the right partner for the District and we’re committed to the development of a successful long-term solution. While it’s sure to take some time, we’re confident in our ability to meet the needs of the District, the community, teachers, parents, and, most important, students.
So what are we doing to ensure that in the upcoming weeks and months the fill rate will improve? Four key strategies.
First, we’ve increased our financial investment in recruiting top talent. You may have seen our advertising across the city. We’re using billboards, transit posters, and print and online ads to get the word out. These campaigns will continue until we’ve reached our goals. Already, we are seeing an increase in applications.
Second, we’re devoting more personnel resources to manage the increase in applicants. We now have an eight-person team working on site at the School District’s administration building to support the processing of applications, securing credentials, and the hosting of interviews and training sessions.
Third, we’ve decreased the amount of time it takes from application submission to working in a classroom by offering more frequent group interviews and training sessions (both are now conducted daily).
Last, and perhaps most significant, we’ve raised teacher pay rates in a number of areas to bring them closer to – and, in some cases, above – the rates offered by the District last year.
On Oct. 16, Source4Teachers announced three types of pay rate increases: one for new hires and two for substitutes previously employed by the District. New hires will benefit from increased rates for long-term positions (up to $180 per day, up from $110). Hires with prior District substitute experience will benefit from increases in both daily and long-term pay (up to $160 per day, up from $125 per day; and $200 per day up from $140, respectively).
Although we still have plenty of ground to cover, each new day brings progress and promise. Each week we receive roughly 100 new applications. Each week we hire between 30 and 50 new people; we’ve hired 93 teachers and support staff in the last three weeks alone.
When we started this process, we contacted the approximately 1,000 prior District substitutes and offered them a position. Although the response rate was low, we’re pleased to report that we now have nearly 1,000 new teachers and 850 support professionals in some phase of the application process. We’re confident that many of them will soon be contributing to the education of the students who need their support. Beyond that, with our system in place and a growing number of teachers in our network, we are setting the stage for a sustained, high fill rate for the long term.
We want to let everyone interested in public education know that Source4Teachers is fully committed to this partnership and will continue to explore any and all options within our power to deliver the fill rates that we have committed to, that the District and community expect, and that parents and students deserve.
Kendley Davenport is the chief executive officer of Source4Teachers.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author.