Columbia agency helps with substitute teacher shortage

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COLUMBIA - Across the country schools districts are suffering from a substitute teacher shortage. Even in mid-Missouri there are more vacancies than can be filled for substitute teachers.

Paul Katnik, Assistant Commissioner for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, said the substitute shortage in Missouri mirrors the locations of teacher shortages.

"In places where we have a harder time getting certified teachers tends to be very very rural, very very urban locations," Katnik said. "The same would be true for substitute teachers."

Allen Jennings, District Manager with Kelly Services, said the reason for the shortage in mid-Missouri is because of the high employment rate.

"Unemployment is a direct correlation between the amount of people applying and the amount of candidates we can source," Jennings said. "So it becomes harder as unemployment goes down lower to find qualified substitute teachers."

Michelle Baumstark, Community Relations Director for Columbia Public Schools, says the district contracts substitute teachers. To find candidates, they use Kelly Services.

"We used to do it internally, but really couldn't sustain that model with good fill rates and consistency," Baumstark said. "We started using them about two-three years ago. Now our fill rate is above 90 percent. Which is great! "

Jennings said Kelly Services has success with helping school districts because they focus year round on recruiting. He said this frees up a schools time to focus on more important aspects of running a school.

Kelly Educational Staffing, a specialty service of Kelly Services, is the largest provider of substitute teachers nationwide. They work with recruiting, screening, hiring and retaining employees.

To be a substitute teacher in Missouri you must complete 60 college credit hours and pass a background check. Every four years a substitute teacher must be re-certified. The state does not manage where those certified substitutes work.

When a substitute applies to work with Kelly Services they must have a behavioral interview, a background check and pass an online test. If they pass the test they are set up in Kelly's system for work.

"We work with specific school districts," Jennings said. "But substitutes can determine exactly where they want to work. Once they're hired and in our system they can determine what grade levels they may want to work in, specific schools they want to work in and specific disciplines."

On average one year of a child's K-12 education is taught by a substitute teacher.

"The most desirable thing is to have a certified teacher in every classroom," Katnik said. "An excellent teacher who knows their content and can teach well. In instances where those folks can't be there we want the highest caliber teacher there and serving as substitute teacher."

Jennings said his company does its best to get a qualified substitute to teach in each classroom.

"We capture all of that upfront," Jennings said. "So if we have an opening say in a science and it comes say early in the morning we would contact that person to see if they are available."

Kelly Services in Columbia works with seven school districts in mid-Missouri: Centralia Public Schools, Columbia Public Schools, Fayette R-III School District, Hallsville R-IV School District, North Callaway R-I School District and Sturgeon R-V School District.

"Each one of those we have certain criteria that we look for," Jennings said. "They may have requirements that they want to show the substitutes upfront and work with the school districts upfront."

Columbia Public Schools requires substitutes to have a four-year degree or be a student teacher. They also want Kelly to show their emergency response plan to substitutes who want to work in their district.

Katnik said DESE issues several thousand substitute teacher certificates each year.