Hopson holds off on outsourcing the hiring of substitute teachers

Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dorsey Hopson II removed from Tuesday’s board meeting agenda a proposal to outsource the hiring of substitute teachers but said it’s not completely off the table.

“We’re going to answer all of the board members’ questions, look at the true cost and our options,” Hopson said after the board’s meeting.  He anticipates his administrators taking up to three weeks to prepare a full report on the issue.  “We could come back with a called meeting sometime in June to continue the discussion.”

Hopson was in support of the proposal to use Kelly Services to hire substitutes for the district for $11 million, $2 million more than what the district spent during 2013-14 to hire substitutes.

Some of main selling points Hopson mentioned included Kelly’s ability to fill substitute positions at a 97 to 100 percent rate and offer health insurance to part-time employees working at least 30 hours a week. He also said it would free  up current Shelby County Schools’ human resource employees to recruit teachers rather than staff buildings.

In the district’s outsourcing proposal, officials estimated that 800 to 1,000 Shelby County teachers are absent per day.  That number is higher than the national average, according to a report from The Commercial Appeal. 

“We’re looking at ways to save money and still improve services; it all has to balance,” Hopson said last week.

Board member Teresa Jones posed several questions about the proposal during the board’s work session last week and said she would not support it because it contained “too many holes.”

Following Tuesday’s meeting, Jones said she’d like the district to take a slower approach in making this decision.

“There are a lot of unknowns and we could take a year and really look at this,” Jones said.  “We have an 85 percent fill rate now.  If we hire two extra people, enhance our technology, we may be able to fill our substitutes ourselves.”

Jones also said the district shouldn’t overreact to estimates that it may be costly  to cover insurance for about 200 substitutes who work more than 30 hours a week.  Health insurance for those employees could cost the district $900,000 a year, according to a report from The Commercial Appeal.

The Memphis-Shelby County Education Association has voiced opposition to the district’s recent outsourcing decisions of custodial work and transportation.

“We don’t think outsourcing is good for the whole education process,” said Ken Foster, executive director.  “A lot of times the substitutes are part of the school’s community; they’re in the schools regularly.  We have a long history of being opposed to outsourcing  Where does it stop?”

Contact Tajuana Cheshier at tcheshier@chalkbeat.org and (901) 730-4013.

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