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Plum school board wants improvement on substitute workers

| Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013, 1:22 p.m.

Kelly Educational Staffing officials last summer vowed to step efforts to find more substitute workers for the Plum School District.

Some Plum School Board members aren't happy with the results.

“The substitute rate has to be looked at,” said board member Sal Colella during last week's education committee meeting. “We aren't satisfied with certain areas. The strategies we put forth as board members have not been embraced (by Kelly Staffing).”

The Plum School Board last June voted to continue its agreement with Kelly Educational Staffing, based in Troy, Mich., after initially hiring the firm in 2011 to place substitutes in the district in a variety of categories — teachers, teacher aides, nurses, secretaries, food-service workers and custodians.

Previously, administrative assistants had the duty of calling substitutes from a district list. Administrators or other teachers cover classes when substitutes are not available.

The district pays Kelly 1.36 percent more than the rates for substitutes. Kelly, in turn, covers costs including worker's compensation, unemployment and retirement.

The fill rates, or number of substitute workers for the positions in which there are absences, has varied by category with Kelly in charge. According to district records, Kelly's fill rate for teachers was 93 percent for September through December 2012, with the previous rate being 95 percent for the 2011-12 school year as well as 95 percent for the 2010-11 school year when the district staff found substitutes.

The fill rate for custodians declined from 81 percent during the 2010-11 school year with the district staff performing the service to 52 percent in both the 2011-12 school year and September through December 2012 with Kelly supplying substitutes.

Board member Richard Zucco is concerned about those numbers.

“There is a problem with the unfilled rate for custodians,” Zucco said. “Kelly said they would try to improve it. I hate to say it, but it's not that improved. What is the problem?”

Board member Loretta White, who has continually opposed the hiring and rehiring of Kelly Staffing, said she is not satisfied with the fill rate for teachers.

“It costs more, and we're not getting better service or better subs,” White said.

Kelly officials said they would address the board's concerns during a public meeting.

“Kelly doesn't discuss information specific to customer relations except for comments that would be made during a public format,” said Denise Ridenour, public relations coordinator for Kelly Services.

Colella said he continues to be concerned about staff members not going to work.

“We have to find the root cause analysis of why there are absences on certain Fridays of the month,” Colella said.

Colella wants the board to consider paying staff members for unused sick days.

“If you get a $500 check at Christmas for not using sick days and a $500 check in June for not using sick days, I think they will take it,” Colella said.”

Colella also suggested increasing the pay rate for substitute teachers that now is $90 a day. He also wondered aloud how many Kelly employees opt to work in Fox Chapel and Pine Richland school districts that are also under agreement with the company rather than going to Plum.

Officials plan to invite Kelly Staffing officials to a meeting to discuss the situation.

Karen Zapf is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8753, or kzapf@tribweb.com.

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