ESS Substitute Solutions
Frequently Asked Questions
On November 5, 2018, the Stanly County Schools Board approved the use of ESS for substitute staffing for 6 months with a cap on total expenditures. The decision to look at ESS was not made lightly, a team of stakeholders from all schools were involved with this process. The District contacted numerous customers to ensure due diligence as should be the practice of any tax supported entity.
- Q: What does it mean to "outsource" the substitute program?
A: When a district outsources a service, it means that the district is allowing an outside company to help manage the day-to-day operations of a function of the organization (substitutes). With the substitute program, ESS will work in collaboration with Stanly County Schools (SCS) to decrease teacher absenteeism while maintaining the absenteeism daily fill rates so that students receive quality instruction in the absence of their teacher of record.
- Q: Who is ESS?
A: ESS is the largest education-exclusive talent company in the country, providing full-service staffing management programs to K-12 school districts for over 18 years, serving over 700 education partners in 23 states. Their solutions are designed to relieve administrative burdens, improve day-to-day operations, and provide high quality substitute teachers, paraprofessionals, and support staff to K-12 education. They will work closely with SCS to absorb the daily tasks of hiring, credentialing, training, managing, evaluating, placing, and retaining skilled employees. Unmatched customer service and resources allow ESS to provide our district a partnership that truly cares about our students and our community. A partnership with ESS is a commitment to provide quality education in our schools.
- Q: Why ESS?
A: ESS will maintain good fill rates with a talent pool that will grow from a customized recruiting program developed specifically for SCS. The partnership will emphasize working incentives and substitute program efficiency. The program will also provide significant administrative burden relief as ESS will recruit, screen, perform stringent background checks, hire, train, and place qualified staff. Their fully integrated absence management, human resources and payroll systems streamline processes and provide customized reporting and quality control. ESS will utilize SCS’ current, approved substitute staff. ESS will then continue to secure individuals with diverse certifications and skills to ensure a great fit for every position. Employees will undergo face-to-face, interactive training with ongoing development opportunities to keep them up-to-date on the latest education practices. SCS will benefit from ESS’ unique management structure, designed to best benefit the district, our students, and our community. A dedicated local management team, corporate resources, and live support representatives will serve our district daily. Cost savings and cost avoidance will be realized through numerous efficiencies to the program. The labor laws enacted during Affordable Care Act created limits on employing part time employees, often creating hardships on both employee and employer. ESS provides an opportunity to substitutes for full-time employment and benefits. It’s simply what's best for our staff, substitutes and students.
- Q: Why work for ESS?
A: ESS is committed to helping you achieve your career goals whether you’re a recent graduate looking to build experience for a career in education, a parent looking to work the hours your children are in school, or a seasoned retired teacher looking to get back into the classroom quickly. And it doesn’t stop there. Employees will enjoy training, health benefits, bonus opportunities, flexible scheduling with no cap on hours worked, weekly pay, and so much more! ESS has been recognized two years running by Forbes Magazine as one of the America’s best large employers.
- Q: The District is outsourcing the critical job of selecting and placing teachers in classrooms with children. Isn't this a core responsibility of the District?
A: The District is still fulfilling its core responsibility by ensuring that the continuity of instruction continues for our students in the absence of their classroom teacher of record. Our goal is to provide a quality substitute teacher in every classroom, every day, who cares that every student continues to learn and grow in the absence of their teacher of record. Secondly, our substitute teachers are prepared and supported both professionally and personally during their substitute experience. To this end, the District feels that it is helping to better improve and fulfill its core responsibility. The standards for substitute teachers will still be set by SCS. Even though ESS will hire the substitutes; quality management and ultimate control will remain with SCS and will maintain the right to request removal of any substitute who does not meet our standards.
- Q: There might be viable internal solutions that haven't been attempted or discovered yet. Have we done everything reasonably within our power to solve this problem internally?
A: Yes, we feel that at this point the District has done its due diligence. Human Resources has worked through the challenges of substitute fill rates for years without being able to find a viable solution that would truly support the continuity of instruction for our campuses. The fact is substitute teaching is a tough job. This is not just a SCS challenge, this is a state-wide and national concern. We have found that substitutes have choices when it comes to deciding when, where, and if they want to work, not only within the Stanly community, but within the surrounding communities as well, thus placing a strain on the number of substitutes who are available to substitute within our community. We have also found that substitutes with advanced education sometimes decide they would like to pursue getting a teaching license through an alternative licensure program after substituting. The tremendous amount of resources directed to the substitutes, leaves little left to recruit, hire, train, manage the licensure process, among the many other duties placed on administration, principals, and human resources.
- Q: What if the District spent the same amount internally that we are planning to on this service contract?
A: The District has considered the idea of using the cost that will be paid toward outsourcing to do this internally. However, we are not certain that the District could do the same job and/or function at the level of efficiency of operations as with the ESS company. It would probably take the District several years to reach the level of proficiency with similar training and processes. The current company has a history of expertise and success in K-12 substitute staffing as their foundational principle serving over 700 school partners in 23 states. We believe that the main emphasis should be on the time lost at the campus and district levels, recruitment of substitute staff, advertisement, and guiding employees needed to operate a successful substitute program. These tasks would add a considerable cost to the district; therefore, it could potentially cost more to manage the program in-house. ESS has the experience, resources, and expertise to provide an immediate solution.
- Q: Will current Stanly County Schools substitute teachers be able to work for ESS?
A: Yes, that was a non-negotiable point between the District and ESS. Current substitute teachers will transition over to the new company without any disruptions in their employment. They will still utilize the same Absence Management system that is currently in place and will be able to work at their preferred campuses. ESS offers additional benefits to substitutes including weekly pay, health care benefits, monetary working incentives, and ongoing training. These benefits will enhance the working conditions for substitutes to improve recruitment and retention.
- Q: The District is at a current fill rate of 90%, what is the ultimate goal?
A: The fill rates are good, the problem has been the large number of absences need to be filled which drive up the cost of the program. Staff in Stanly’s human resources department, and within each school are spending significant hours on achieving the high fill rates which results in more labor and overtime costs. The expectation will be to maintain fill the current fill rates while reducing absenteeism and maximizing efficiencies that will ultimately bring our District the greatest value from the program. Some campuses do a better job than others, therefore ESS and Stanly will partner to focus on those campuses experiencing significant challenges and reward and recognize those who are doing well. ESS company will target campuses with specific challenges through intentional recruitment efforts, incentives, and permanent campus substitutes.
- Q: Why can't the District solve the problem of teacher attendance and classroom fill rates?
A: The District’s HR team has been working to ensure we have quality substitutes in our classrooms each day for many years. The issue could quite possibly be an attendance problem for some employees/campuses, however, our employees have discretion pertaining to their personal absences. We must find solutions for our classroom vacancies while implementing processes and procedures to improve efficiencies within the substitute service program. This is our attempt, willingness, and recommendation to try something different, innovative, and as close to cost neutral as possible for a solution.
- Q: Will the District be able to terminate the contract if ESS does not meet expectations?
A: Yes, the District will include a clause within the contract that stipulates that the company must demonstrate increments of improvement with the program, or the contract will be terminated. The Superintendent will make this determination in collaboration with the HR department, and, of course, with input from our campus administration, our business office, and other District departments that are impacted by this effort. In addition, there will be periodical check points for monitoring, review, and evaluation all along the way throughout the duration of the contract.
- Q: How will the District offset the cost of outsourcing substitutes?
A: The company prides itself in staying as cost neutral as possible by applying the same cost that the District is currently spending on their substitute program and applying a service fee to that amount. The service fee is considered to help offset the soft cost analysis that is hard to quantify during any given year i.e. (the amount of time, energy, paperwork, and procedural processes within the District departments and campuses that oversee the substitute day-to-day operations within the district). In addition to these soft costs, personnel spending time on the substitutes can now redirect their time and efforts to other important needs within each campus. This will have a positive impact on the operational and financial budget. It is our belief that this relationship with ESS will remain cost neutral, and to ensure we stay within budget a cap has been placed on expenses for the program.
- Q: Recently, a proposal was put forth that our District would work with ESS Substitute Solutions to manage our substitute system. In a nutshell, what does this mean for our current substitute teachers?
A: The primary reason for researching and evaluating a solution for the persistent challenges regarding substitute fill rates is to ensure that the continuity of instruction continues for our students in the absence of their classroom teacher of record. Our goal is to help provide a quality substitute teacher in every classroom, every day, who is focused on student success, and who continues to learn and grow in the absence of their teacher of record. Secondly, our substitute teachers are prepared and supported both professionally and personally during their substitute experience.
In summary, the working relationship with the district’s HR department and campus administrators will remain the same throughout this collaborative process with the ESS team. The transitioning of current substitutes within the system should be seamless regarding the current workplace options, pay scale, and status.
- Q: Will current substitutes have a choice in selecting their assignments if they choose to only work on one campus? Will this be a problem if one does not choose to work as often as the ESS company requires?
A: With the ESS Program, substitutes will be expected to continue working every month whether that be one day a month or 20 days per month. If substitutes do not work at all for a three-month period the company will terminate employment as a substitute. However, if the substitute has a valid reason (for example retirees traveling/vacationing for three months, family and/or personal illness, etc.), ESS will temporarily suspend the substitute within the system until they return.
Yes, a substitute can choose to only work in one school if they wish and can also set up their preferences as to which school or schools they want to work. In addition, ESS has their standard application process that works with the districts’ current application system “AppliTrack.”
Regarding credentialing, ESS will follow all North Carolina regulations and forms. ESS will hold several transitional meetings to cover the new substitute onboarding/hiring paperwork process.
- Q. Will the pay schedule change? Currently subs get paid a month after subbing. If someone subs at the beginning of the school year, the pay doesn’t arrive till after October 1.
A: Yes, the substitute employee pay schedule will change. Currently the district pays subs monthly. With ESS, subs will be paid weekly and receive benefits they do not currently receive.
- Q. Will direct deposit be an option? Subs are concerned about the check getting lost or stolen and about the lack of timeliness.