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Plum school board irked by teacher absences

| Wednesday, July 24, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Kelly Educational Staffing found substitutes in about 96 percent of the Plum teacher absences during the 2012-13 school year.

The number of absences, though — 3,655 among a teaching staff of about 275 — continues to concern some Plum School Board members.

The number excludes long-term substitutes, according to data provided by the district.

The number of teacher absences in 2009-10 was 3,115. There were 3,004 teacher absences in 2010-11 and 3,245 in 2011-12.

“The board has to address it and will address it,” Plum School Board member Sal Colella said during an education committee meeting earlier this month.

Colella made his comments after a presentation by Kelly Educational Staffing, the firm hired by the district to find substitute teachers, teacher aides, nurses, secretaries, food-service workers and custodians.

David Stieving, Kelly Educational Staffing's Pittsburgh manager, told board members that the fill rate for teachers and teacher aides for the 2012-13 school year was 94.7 percent.

The teacher fill rate alone was 95.7 percent, Stieving said.

The fill rate for the non-instructional positions was 67.5 percent, Stieving said.

In particular, the fill rate for custodians was 65 percent, Stieving said.

Stieving said 73.3 percent of all unfilled postions were non-instructional, and 47.7 percent of those were in custodian jobs.

“We are continuing our recruiting efforts in that (non-instructional) area,” Stieving said.

“We are proud of 96 percent (fill rate) with teachers.”

Board members spent most of their discussion on teacher absences.

Colella said in particular he is unhappy about 601 teacher absences in May. Kelly Educational Staffing filled 578 of the 601 or 96 percent of the positions, Stieving said.

Substitute reachers were paid $90 a day during the most recent school year.

“Over 600 absences concern me,” Colella said.

“It is an extreme amount of days to miss. Something has to be done.”

Board member Loretta White said she wants to see the reasons for the absences before making any judgments.

White said at times teachers need to use sick days for doctor appointments for themselves and for their children.

“It's the nature of the staff,” White said.

“We have a lot of new, young teachers. We have young women (in the teaching staff) who need to take days.”

White said in the contract, teachers have a designated amount of sick days they are entitled to use.

“I don't care what the contract says,” Colella said.

The board in the next month is expected to consider renewing its agreement with Kelly Educational Staffing that was hired in 2011.

Fox Chapel and Pine Richland school districts also are under agreement with the firm.

The district pays Kelly 1.36 percent more than the rates for substitutes.

Kelly Educational Staffing, in turn, covers costs including worker's compensation, unemployment and retirement.

White disagrees with the district paying Kelly Educational Staffing to find substitute workers.

“I am dissatisfied with the fill rate,” board member Loretta White said.

“I'd like us to go back to doing it (filling substitute positions) in-house.”

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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