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Hite to propose changing, but not canceling Source4Teachers contract

By David Limm on Nov 19, 2015 01:26 PM

In an email to School District employees Thursday, Superintendent William Hite again acknowledged the failure by staffing firm Source4teachers to adequately fill the District's substitute vacancies and described a few planned changes in the Cherry Hill-based firm's contract to be considered at Thursday's School Reform Commission meeting.

"Without a doubt, our efforts this year to ramp up substitute teacher recruitment and hiring by contracting with Source4Teachers (S4T) have not worked as anticipated," Hite said.

Hite plans to ask the SRC's approval to limit Source4Teachers' work to filling daily teacher absences. The task of recruiting and placing long-term and other substitutes would revert to the District, according to Hite's letter. 

On Wednesday Source4Teachers filled 31 percent of substitute vacancies, the "highest yet," according to District spokesperson Fernando Gallard. On Monday and Tuesday, the rates were 27 percent. The company is the sole source of substitutes this week; earlier in the school year, some of the absences were filled by District staff.

In September, the firm's fill rate was as low as 11 percent. Though rates have improved somewhat, the firm is nowhere near the 75 percent fill rate promised for the month of September and the 90 percent target for January. The fill rate is still barely half of last year's rate when the District managed the substitute pool.

Citing the disarray that these staffing issues have caused in schools, with teachers sacrificing their own class preparation time to fill absences, many have called for the District to end its contract with Source4Teachers, which it can do at any time with two weeks' notice.

Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan has repeatedly called for the District to cancel its contract and revert to the previous system of assigning substitutes, which he has said "performed vastly better than the fiasco we are witnessing today."

Hite maintains that a return to the previous, District-run system would not be prudent. 

"People ask, 'Why don’t you just cancel the contract and go back to the old way?' My answer: It would not be a good approach for our students or schools," wrote Hite.

"Returning to the old way does not solve the problem either. It would take months to recreate the previous system, which had considerable shortcomings."

The substitute pool is now at 265 teachers, he said, with over 400 more in the pipeline waiting for their work clearances.

"If we cancel the S4T contract, we would lose this pool of teachers. Canceling the contract does not generate any savings: S4T is only paid for the substitute positions it fills," wrote Hite. 

 

Hite's email can be read in full below.

Dear Colleagues:

For many years, we have struggled to find enough substitute teachers to fill vacancies, especially in our most challenging schools. Last school year, more than 280 classrooms did not have a teacher in front of students on a daily basis. And that was on a good day.

I am writing today to update you on our efforts to solve this long-standing problem and also to acknowledge and thank you for your hard work and sacrifice. I know you have endured this problem for years and faced further challenges due to current efforts not working well quickly enough.

As a sign of appreciation, teachers who have given up their preparation or “prep” periods to cover classes will have the opportunity to receive their earned prep payback at mid-year, providing some earlier financial recognition for their additional efforts. We will send information soon on procedures for this.

Without a doubt, our efforts this year to ramp up substitute teacher recruitment and hiring by contracting with Source4Teachers (S4T) have not worked as anticipated. People ask, “Why don’t you just cancel the contract and go back to the old way?” My answer: It would not be a good approach for our students or schools.

Right now, there is a pool of 265 eligible substitute teachers, with another 400-plus people in the pipeline once their required clearances are complete. If we cancel the S4T contract, we would lose this pool of teachers. Canceling the contract does not generate any savings: S4T is only paid for the substitute positions it fills.  

Returning to the old way does not solve the problem either. It would take months to recreate the previous system, which had considerable shortcomings. Despite having many dedicated substitutes, close to 70 percent of the pool was unavailable on any given day. Available substitutes frequently turned down jobs in certain schools and neighborhoods. Absences were not accurately tracked and there were not nearly enough eligible or interested candidates. And, unfortunately, rules were taken advantage of.

For example, under the old system, substitutes could sign up for jobs on expected snow days and still be paid when school was canceled. The average fill rate for last year’s four snow days was over 91 percent, while our average daily fill rate hovered around 66 percent. This situation was even worse at our harder-to-staff schools. One middle school, for instance, had a 100 percent fill rate for snow days this past March; its overall fill rate for the month was 8 percent.

Our new approach includes the following:

• Narrowing the scope of S4T’s responsibilities to focus on our daily teacher absences.

• Bringing in-house the responsibility for recruiting and employing both long-term substitutes for absences exceeding 89 days and administrator substitutes. • Reducing the number of vacancies by recruiting recent and mid-year graduates and partnering with our retired teachers who want to return to the District. Our vacancy rate is less than 1.5 percent (approximately 134 positions) and we have hired more than 100 new teachers in the past three weeks. We are seeking approval to use retirees to fill some of our remaining vacancies.

• A commentary by S4T about its related actions to improve performance was published by The Notebook. We are confident our combined actions will steadily increase the number of covered classrooms each day and we will continue to improve the substitute teacher staffing process.

Our priority remains ensuring more students have teachers in front of them – each and every day.

Thank you,

Bill

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Comments (40)

Submitted by Retired From the SDP (not verified) on November 19, 2015 2:36 pm

"Our new approach includes the following:

  • Narrowing the scope of S4T’s responsibilities to focus on our daily teacher absences."

 

Really Dr. Hite???  Narrowing the scope??  I thought S4T's job is to focus on daily teacher absences!!  What are they getting paid millions for???  Do you plan to "narrow the scope of responsibilities" of those teachers and principals who are covering classes each day????  Smh...

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Submitted by Lisa Haver on November 19, 2015 3:13 pm

Another sign of appreciation would be to withdraw the lawsuit, now before the PA Supreme Court, to cancel the PFT contract and strip union members of all colllective bargaining rights.

Submitted by NYSE (not verified) on November 19, 2015 3:44 pm

Do you think PSERS should cancel its contract with the hedge funds that it's paying billions in investment fees?  Those hedge funds were supposed to yield big gains for the pension fund and so far they've only collected their fees.  

Submitted by NYSE (not verified) on November 19, 2015 3:17 pm

S4T doesn't get paid millions--it gets paid for each vacancy it fills.  And actually if you're retired  S4T is doing you a favor.  S4T subs don't add to PSERS $50 billion unfunded pension liability.  That increases the likelihood that your pension checks won't stop.  

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 19, 2015 3:30 pm
Great!
Submitted by Cliff Thomas (not verified) on November 19, 2015 4:16 pm

This tidbit is incredibly disappointing. 

"For example, under the old system, substitutes could sign up for jobs on expected snow days and still be paid when school was canceled. The average fill rate for last year’s four snow days was over 91 percent, while our average daily fill rate hovered around 66 percent. This situation was even worse at our harder-to-staff schools. One middle school, for instance, had a 100 percent fill rate for snow days this past March; its overall fill rate for the month was 8 percent."

Wow. 

Submitted by Truth (not verified) on November 19, 2015 9:02 pm

I'm not sure I believe anything that comes out of that liar's mouth.  And he mentions ONE school.

What stood out for me was: "Returning to the old way does not solve the problem either. It would take months to recreate the previous system, which had considerable shortcomings. Despite having many dedicated substitutes, close to 70 percent of the pool was unavailable on any given day"  I taught several grades at a school for over a decade.  I was absent about 25 times and ONCE did not have a substitute.  My experience makes me dubious about his claims...in addition to all the other lies he has told along the way.

Submitted by BSdetector (not verified) on November 20, 2015 12:03 am

That tidbit is incredibly false too.

Submitted by Public Schools Matter (not verified) on November 19, 2015 4:32 pm
source4teachers is actually not getting paid. They are the front company that allows this no bid contract to be awarded to their true owners a hedge fund company in Boston. Dr Hite is not allowed to cut off source4teachers' contract summarily because he too in many ways is there to serve hudge funds and Malthusian minded institutes like the Broad Foundation rather than the citizens of Philadelphia. Nontheless, the smell of defeat grows...
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 20, 2015 1:50 pm

Not true at all, several companies submitted bids and meet with the district over the summer.

Source4teachers may have screwed this up but they have successfully serviced many districts in NJ and PA, pretty much dominate the industry for sub teachers.

They arent a front for any hedge fund and are paid only on what they staff.

Typical markup is between 20-30% and thats thier profit, maybe lower due to volume.

 

Problem was that most bids just drove down the rates to levels that were not even realistic as they found out the hard way.  Now that the rates are somewhat respectable levels people are jumping on board.  The fill rate will get better and I predict they will achieve 50% by January.

 

Not nearly what they promised but what company did they think could recruit and staff a needed 1,500 teachers or more...smh

I do beleive this is all an effort to privatize education and push for outsourcing of all services.

Nurses, Teachers, Food Service, Transportation, Maintenance...

Submitted by Public Schools Matter (not verified) on November 20, 2015 6:52 pm

Dear Anonymous, yes, counter bids were made. However, S4T had the inside track the whole way. If this is not the case how is it that the September 75% and January 90% fill rate not being met do not lead to a suspension their contract? Answer, because they had the right contacts.

A 20%-30% mark up profit in a district that cries poverty when demands for supplies and nurses are made is AN INSULT! And yes, yes, S4T is owned by a hedge fund, PROVIDENCE, R.I.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Nautic Partners, LLC ("Nautic") announced that it has partnered with management to acquire Source4Teachers ("S4T" or the "Company"). S4T, through its Source4Teachers and MissionOne divisions, is a leading provider of outsourced substitute teacher and paraprofessional managed services to K-12 schools in the eastern United States. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

S4T is a private company reaping tax payers monies and FAILING to fulfill what they put down in writing. Moreover "a hedge" is jargin for a bet. We are placing students welfare and learning in the hands of gamblers.

I am happy that you recognize that this an attempt to privatize. You need to add that it is also a way to reduce the membership of the PFT via loss of retired and past substitute teachers, whom were due paying members. The attack on unions is the ultimate goal of all FASCIST!

“Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power” 
― Benito Mussolini

WAKE UP AMERICAN MIDDLE CLASS BEFORE YOU GET "TRUMPED"!

Submitted by Annoy (not verified) on November 20, 2015 4:44 am

Hite's letter is classic spin.  Site a few factoids and extrapolate them as truth.  Put the blame for a catastrophy on a few "cheaters" with his snow day fable.  Dr. Hite, have you no integrity????

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 20, 2015 9:23 am

they lying ask the teachers and students stop relying on phonies for real answers... public education is being traded on wall st ... black lives dont matter to those in charge they are just the next generation of impoverished people who are going to keep those in power rich for generations to come 

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Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 20, 2015 9:01 am

Really HIte? Here's the real deal from a former "sub".

 

My answer: It would not be a good approach for our students or schools.

 

You and your clown bosses have been taking good approaches for Philly schools and STUDENTS? You're nothing but scum prostitutes selling out the schools to the highest bidders. With new politicians on the way to try and salvage the disaster you buffoons are intentionally leaving behind because you see the hand writing on the walls. You're on your way out the door and want to make it a terrible mess for anyone to clean up.

 

1) You dare blame a few paid subs on a snow day for not returning to a better functioning system? How many days off for snow did we get last year? I never got paid for a snow day. When there is snow in the forecast the district watched it carefully and was very slow to even post jobs and once school was cancelled they were all IMMEDIATELY taken down and in fact they will remove you from that assignment and act as though you never picked it up prior to the announcement. FACT. The only way a guest teacher would get paid is if it was a multi day assignment or long term and just as appointed teachers also get paid then so would we, which I would say is fair. We are dedicated to that class for some time and agreed to perfrom all the same responsibilities as an appointed teacher. Now how much are you losing by paying for all these prep paybacks while burning the hell out of your staff and think they will jump for joy b/c yo paid them a few months sooner than later? They're STILL STRESSED. I'd take a less paying job over a stressful one any day. You must have no idea what that does to your health.

2) You want to say we pick up for certain schools? Tell the truth. You play too many games with some of those students. They viciously attack classmates and staff members, you pretend to remove them. Being a floating "sub" guess what? I see those same violent students removed fro the school they caused havoc in and placed in another less suspecting schoo to repeat the same. You get paid per head and are very hestitant about removing problem students that the principals can not even control. A suspension is a vacation. You have no real methods of discipline and the fact is at these "Certain schools" and area's that you mention. The students run the show. You call to the office for help. "Oh sorry, school police were reduced and the ones we have are busy. He's about to throw a text book at you? Just tell him to sit down and listen." NO support. They are attacking and threatening staff members and you want us to do what? For how much? Oh and btw we can't touch them right? Or it'll be our faces on the news and our jobs, right? I'm was in the trenches while you and your clowns were far removed. Why would I pick an assignment at Bartram over Central? Say why we're not picking up at certain schools. face it, some kids are good and there to learn while others ruin it for them with violence, intimidation, selling drugs, blasting music during classes, cursing us out, and everything ELSE BUT to LEARN. They should be separated. Non violent kids with a will to learn from the rest that are not. Toss those a ball for the day to keep them off the streets and beef up security there and reduce police in normal schools. I saw the news report on George Washington HS this week. It was always a good school but you clowns let any student in from troubled areas with a bad school record and this is the problem. When the S4T workers get a dose of those "certain schools" too, guess what? NO one in their right mind that graduated from college is applying here to act like correctional officers which is what you are asking. Not only that for reduced pay? To add insult to injury, we pick up an assignment for a good quiet class and the schools can take us out that assignment and throw us in the worst classroom in the school? W are not farm mules. You will get less from the S4T workers with less pay.

3) You think experiencing the stress levels that we have that we will return for nearly minimum wage? I know we are "merely subs" with no respect but we are HUMAN BEINGS first with families and bills too that just so happen to also have college degrees. Even the grocery store Aldi hires at more than S4T with no degree and less headache. I would flip burgers before I return there for that pay. Even driving for Uber one 15 min trip can bring in $12, do that 2x in 1 hour and thats more than double S4T is paying with less stress.

4) Even months to return back would still provide better results than what you have now, it's like they're not even there in the first place but again this is ALL about dismantling the Union. You figured it out, destroy the pyramid by removing the bottom support blocks. 

 

Mission: Destroy the union and sell all schools to charters while redirecting blame or ignoring issues at any cost. Also bring in a bunch of do nothing adms unqualified bozos to suck more millions out. Never mind the students.

 

Mission almost accomplished (87% there)

 

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 20, 2015 10:22 am

Oh yeah and using code words is a cheap shot too.

 

Replace the word "challenging" with "dangerous and stressful" Tell the people the TRUTH

 "especially in our most challenging schools."

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 20, 2015 10:24 am

Oh yeah and using code words is a cheap shot too.

 

Replace the word "challenging" with "dangerous and stressful" Tell the people the TRUTH

 "especially in our most challenging schools."

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 20, 2015 10:42 am

Ever occur ti you that those dangerous and stressful schools with so many vacancies are so because those students have no desire to learna snd are being forced there against their wills so they chase away any teacher they can? But guest teachers are the problem? Maybe you're pointing the finger in the WRONG direction. Not that hard to figure out. But stay the course and keep on forcing people that don't want to be there to be there.....

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 20, 2015 10:44 am

Ever occur ti you that those dangerous and stressful schools with so many vacancies are so because those students have no desire to learna snd are being forced there against their wills so they chase away any teacher they can? But guest teachers are the problem? Maybe you're pointing the finger in the WRONG direction. Not that hard to figure out. But stay the course and keep on forcing people that don't want to be there to be there.....

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