Columbia Public Schools Happy with New Substitute System

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COLUMBIA - A human resources officer says the Columbia Public School district successfully filled 553 staff absences using Kelly Services in August.

Dr. Dana Clippard said the decision to hire the national education staffing system has helped solve an increasing need for substitutes and an increasing inability to fill vacant classrooms.

"We were often leaving teachers with the decision between taking care of their own health or staying home with their own children, or leaving their classroom without a teacher," said Clippard.

Kelly Systems set up a branch in Columbia for an 18-month trail period, after being approved by the Board of Education last fall.

Clippard, the assistant superintendent for human resources at CPS first introduced the plan in the October meeting. It was approved unaminously.

Clippard said she recommended Kelly Services because she believed the company could provide "quality substitute teachers on demand."

The company hired substitutes by advertising on and educational employment websites until late August.

Kelly's website claims a national substitute placement rate greater than 98%. A regional spokesperson said the rate was 100% for Columbia in August.

The district fill rate for classroom vacancies was about 93% in the past, according to Clippard.

She said sometimes that meant cancelling classes or otherwise compromising learning.

The estimated $1.95 million cost of Kelly Services is $300,000.00 more than the district originally planned to spend on substitutes.

However, Clippard said that it was still the most cost effective way to fill the vacancies.

"Permanent substitutes or other contracted companies just would have cost more," she said. "We can't afford to leave those classrooms vacant."

Some of the subsititues hired by Kelley said they appreciate the work they're doing.

Bonita Ghess is a professional substitute hired by Kelly Services last November. She has already been named as a preferred substitute at Lange Middle School and Rockbridge High School, according to Kelly's staff supervisor.

"It's nice because I get to be so involved throughout the district. I have students recognize me all over, even when I don't remember their names, I remember them," said Ghess.

She taught an art class as a substitute at Douglass High School on September 3, and an elementary class at Fairview Elementery School on September 4. She said she had successful classes.

"Once you get through to them, they put their heads down and get into their work," said Ghess. "They're good kids."

Clippard said that the school district would reevaluate the contract and accept other bids for the substitute system at the end of this school year.

She said, currently, the district is satisfied with the work Kelly Services is doing.

Theresa Edmonton, a representative for Kelly Services, said the company would be delighted to win the contract again after this school year. "We would very much like to stay in Columbia."