Amid a substitute-teacher crisis, Philly is moving to cut ties with its sub provider
The school board will consider approving a two-year, $58 million contract with ESS Northeast, replacing Kelly Educational Services.
Philadelphia subs received a note this week that told them of a coming change.
“Beginning in the 2022-23 school year, Kelly Education will no longer be the substitute talent employer for the School District of Philadelphia,” said the email sent to substitutes and obtained by The Inquirer. “However, your current work arrangement with Kelly Education will remain unchanged between now and July 2022.”
Monica Lewis, district spokesperson, confirmed the shift.
The school board on Thursday will consider approving a two-year, $58 million contract with ESS Northeast, a national education staffing firm with offices in Cherry Hill, for substitute staffing.
Both Lewis and a spokesperson for Kelly Educational Services declined to comment further until after the board meeting.
Nationwide labor shortages have hit school systems hard, but the Philadelphia district’s needs are particularly acute. As of mid-October, Kelly officials said, their firm was filling about 70% of its substitute-teaching jobs nationwide. That rate is typically in the high 80s or low 90s.
In Philadelphia, Kelly was filling just 41% of substitute teaching jobs in mid-October. Later that month, Kelly officials announced they were bumping up pay for Philadelphia substitutes, offering $50 daily bonuses for substitutes in city schools and $100 daily bonuses for substitute nurses.
It’s not clear whether the bonuses eased the problem. More recent figures have not been made available.
In the meantime, schools have been struggling to cover teacher and other school staff absences. Teachers must often give up preparation periods designed for grading, lesson planning, and parent outreach to cover others’ classes. Administrators, counselors, and other adults in buildings have been tapped to fill in and monitor students.
To that end, Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. recently directed some central-office workers to start teaching in schools deemed “in crisis” with staffing, with high numbers of vacancies and teacher absences that often go unfilled.
Philadelphia used to hire its own substitutes. It outsourced the job in 2015, when Source4Teachers was awarded a contract. The company’s performance was poor, the School Reform Commission and administration said at the time, and Kelly took over in 2016.
Source4Teachers merged with ESS in 2017.