The Clarke County School District is looking for substitute teachers, as are most Northeast Georgia school districts. To find them, CCSD administrators have turned to ESS, a company that trains substitutes for all staff positions, and places them in schools where they need and want to be.
Relying on a third party has meant an increase in substitute fill rates, said CCSD Human Resources Director Selena Blankenship. Comparing costs and fill rates is difficult because of COVID-19 shuttering schools in the district, but some comparisons are possible.
In February 2019, the staffing fill rate was 50%, meaning half the time CCSD was able to find a substitute. With ESS’s involvement, in February 2020, a month before the pandemic shut down schools, the fill rate was 80%. The district spent $1.4 million on substitutes in 2019-2020 and $560,000 in 2020-2021, largely because of virtual instruction. Blankenship estimated the district will spend roughly the same amount this year on substitutes as it did in 2019-2020.
Right now, there’s a pool of 135 substitutes, who have been trained on classroom management, district practices and ESS practices. CCSD administrators and principals would like a pool of 400 substitutes so that no classroom is left without appropriate staffing. If there isn’t a substitute for a particular class, its students might be divided between classrooms, or it may be taught by a teacher who gives up planning time or by an assistant principal. “No students are left unattended,” Blakenship said.
There are benefits for substitutes working for ESS. Substitutes are paid every week. They can work 40 hours a week, but can’t start until they have four hours of training. If someone works for ESS long enough, they can qualify for health insurance and a 401K. Substitutes can pick the schools where they want to work or the days when they want to work. Online professional learning courses are also available.
CCSD administrators would like to “give substitutes pay that’s appropriate,” said Blankenship—more than the $71 they currently get. Paraprofessional subs receive $60 a day, or less than $10 an hour. The longer one works, the more they are paid—on day 11 of working, the substitute teacher pay goes to $76 a day. They also want to reach out to retired educators and sign them up as substitutes.
There’s a set of parents who are always at their children’s school, Blankenship said. “The best sub pool is the parents.” The district’s principals and teachers are “generally positive” about the substitute system, she said.To learn more about becoming a substitute teacher, go to ess.com.
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