ONLY SIX DAYS into the school year, the School District of Philadelphia is re-evaluating its decision to overhaul the management of substitute teachers.

Superintendent William Hite last night said he was disappointed with the performance of Source4Teachers, the company hired in June to recruit and manage subs, since schools opened Sept. 8. The firm has filled fewer than 25 percent of empty classrooms so far, leaving many kids and teachers in the lurch.

Hite said the district is working with the Cherry Hill-based firm to increase the so-called fill rate by increasing pay, adding more recruiters and streamlining the hiring process. He also said the company was asked to bring on a subcontractor to assist.

"Source4Teachers is on notice that continued poor performance puts its work with the school district in jeopardy," Hite said at the School Reform Commission meeting. "We will be watching and managing this partnership closely to ensure we receive the performance that we contracted for."

Effective immediately, the daily rate for certified teachers will rise from $90 to $110, and the rate for noncertified teachers will go from $75 to $90, the district said.

The announcement came hours after the president of the teachers' union urged the School Reform Commission to cancel the $34 million contract and return to the previous system.

"By failing to deliver on its commitments, Source4Teachers is shortchanging our schoolchildren," Jerry Jordan said in a statement. Jordan said he visited Kensington's Mastbaum High School, where he said a physical-education class of more than 70 kids had just one teacher and a second staff member who had given up prep time to help cover the class.

He said that forcing teachers to fill the void compromised the quality of instruction for other students.

In June, the SRC approved a two-year contract with Source4Teachers, phasing out the PFT, which had represented and managed substitute teachers. The district cited $2 million in total savings and the fact that only about 64 percent of empty classrooms were filled by substitutes last year.

The deal with Source4Teachers requires the company to fill 75 percent of vacant classrooms by the start of school and 90 percent by January, or incur fines. The company issued a response yesterday acknowledging that it had gotten off to a rough start.

"When you implement a large-scale overhaul of a system as big as the district's, one week simply isn't enough time to evaluate its success," the statement read. "We're optimistic about the progress we're making. Our fill rate for teachers has begun to climb [nearly 25 percent yesterday], so we are making steady progress. New people apply each day. New people are hired each day. Source4Teachers is fit for this task and we look forward to soon reaching the fill rates the district requires and the students deserve."

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