Madison, Monroe City, Ralls County R-II now using Kelly Services

Finding substitute teachers is a time-consuming, frustrating exercise for many school districts.

When substitute position go unfilled, schools are forced to staff classes with teachers on their planning periods, and assistant principals and principals, taking them away from their primary tasks.

Many school districts in Northeast Missouri have hired outside contractors to help staff classrooms to cover teacher absences.

Last month, Madison C-3 School District joined the ranks of area school districts who have turned to a contractor for assistance with the hiring of Kelly Services.

“This will open up a pool of substitutes that we did not have in the past and will help with our fill rates when we have a need for subs,” said Madison Superintendent Shane Stocks. “This will take the burden off the administrative and office staff to find subs and it will also help with not having to use our teachers during their planning hour to sub because of the higher fill rate on days we can’t find a sub.”

As other districts, Madison faced a continual problem of recruiting and retaining substitute teachers, a time-consuming undertaking that has been turned over to Kelly Services.

“We have our subs that are retired and have been with us for years, but then we add and lose subs yearly with younger subs who seek full time employment,” Stocks said.

The Ralls County R-II School District and the Monroe City R-I School District have also hired Kelly Services.

Dr. Tara Lewis, superintendent of Ralls County R-II Schools, said that has helped the district have better classroom coverage and helped administrators focused on their jobs instead of scrambling to cover teacher absences.

Lewis said that the Ralls, Monroe City and Hannibal districts joined to form a consortium for Kelly Services.

Prior to hiring Kelly Services, administrators would start at 5:30 a.m. on school days, taking call from teachers who were not able to come to work, and then searching for substitute teachers. It was not unusual to have assistant principals and principals covering for teacher absences in a daily basis.

“Kelly has had a 98 percent coverage rate, so this has nearly eliminated principals covering classrooms and has allowed them to return to their normal job,” Lewis said.

Dr. Tracy Bottoms, superintendent of Monroe City R-I Schools, said his district faced similar issues. The district had a regular substitute list of 15-20 substitute teachers, but because of limited work schedules and teacher preferences there were many days when no substitutes could be located, causing disruptions that impacted learning.

“One of our biggest issues that we faced was how to cover classes with no subs,” Bottoms said. “Often times were might have pulled building aides out of their daily assignment and placed them classrooms to sub. At times we may have had to combine classes, due to having no sub. At there are times that building principals had to spend a portion of their days covering classrooms, due to no sub.”

Kelly recruits substitute teachers, uses an online tool for teachers to request a substitute and alert substitutes to opportunities. The system, called AESOP, even provides teachers the opportunity to leave detailed instructions on what should happen in the classroom.

And Kelly pays the substitute teachers, meaning that the school districts pay a single bill to Kelly rather than adding to their payrolls.

Both Lewis and Bottoms said that hiring Kelly services has expanded the substitute pool and ensured better coverage.

“With Kelly Services, we have a great fill rate,” Bottoms said. “By that, I mean that we have subs covering our classrooms. Our teachers can go online and schedule their subs in advance, if they know an absence in advance. There is also a call-in feature that starts receiving calls at 4 a.m. We have about 35 to 40 new subs who were not subbing in our district prior to being with Kelly. We still have the chance to schedule local people as subs first, if they are available to sub. This was important to our district. If we have something come up, Kelly has been great to work with to help solve any issue.”

There is an increased cost for hiring Kelly. For instance, Bottoms said that Monroe City has budgeted about $15,000 to cover the expense, but all three superintendents say in the long-run, they believe Kelly Services will more effective for the districts.

“Ralls County is very pleased with the service, coverage, and professionalism of Kelly Services,” Lewis said.