NAFCS considers changes to help with substitute teacher shortages

Feb. 6—FLOYD COUNTY — As the district faces a shortage of substitute teachers, New Albany-Floyd County is considering a new approach to staffing.

NAFCS officials are exploring potential changes to allow for more consistent staffing in school buildings. Administrators proposed an updated staffing model for substitute teachers at a Jan. 30 school board work session.

The NAFCS administration is recommending a hybrid model that would involve hiring some in-house substitute teachers based in schools across the district. The in-house substitutes would reduce the need for substitutes hired through Kelly Services, the staffing agency that contracts with the school district.

The school board must approve the changes for the new model to go into effect.

At last week's meeting, NAFCS Interim Superintendent Bill Briscoe described the shortage of substitutes as one of the biggest problems facing the school district.

"It puts a lot of pressure on teachers that have to lose their planning period when they cover [for other teachers]," he said. "Many times aides are pulled out of the classroom to cover."

Briscoe described the proposal as an "out-of-the-box plan." The substitutes would be on the district's payroll, and they would be offered benefits from NAFCS.

NAFCS Chief Financial Officer Chris Street said the administration has been talking to principals and teachers to gather feedback on the matter.

He said the district needs about 10,000 substitutes a year, and more than 650 positions require substitutes. The fill rate for substitutes is about 65%.

"We'd like to see that fill rate get closer to that 85% to 95% range you'll see in typical good years," Street said. He said the plan would be to "start small and see if this concept works."

The district is considering one substitute in-house per elementary school and two for large secondary schools such as Floyd Central High School, New Albany High School and Highland Hills Middle School.

The proposed change would not replace Kelly Services as a provider of substitute teacher staffing, but instead, it would provide additional support for schools.

Street noted the value of having a consistent substitute in the buildings. Kelly Services also provides substitutes that are based in certain buildings.

"One thing that principals across the board said is that they like their building subs, and we have building subs now with Kelly," Street said. "But they also like people who are on our payroll, because it feels more like they are part of the team, part of the family and the school."

Jenny Higbie, a NAFCS board member, said the proposal is a "fantastic" idea, and she believes the in-house substitutes will help with behavior management in the classroom.

"The subs that are in-house are going to know the children and know the staff," she said.

Jeanine Corson, director of human resources at NAFCS, said the larger schools in the district need about 15 substitutes a day. She emphasizes that simply increasing substitute pay would not solve the problem, since there are fewer employees available to fill the jobs in the current marketplace.

"There are school districts offering a ton of money to a sub," Corson said. "I believe Elkhart offers a couple hundred dollars per day, but their fill rate isn't any different. It's not changing it."

Through Kelly Services, the rate is $90 a day for non-certified substitutes and $100 for substitutes with teachers' licenses.

Corson said the administration might come back with additional options to address the staffing challenges.

"We're looking for any way we can to attract and get people to come and support our organization and take some of this load off of our teachers day to day," she said.