School District Cutting Ties with Sorely Underperforming Sub Contractor

Source4Teachers never filled close to as many classrooms as it promised.

William Hite, Superintendent of Philadelphia Schools, in the Pennsylvania Capitol meeting with Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and state legislators seeking funds for Philadelphia Schools during state budget talks Sunday, June 29, 2014, in Harrisburg, Pa. AP Photo | Bradley C. Bower

Philadelphia School District Superintendent William Hite | Photo by Bradley C. Bower/AP

The Philadelphia School District is parting ways with Source4Teachers, a private group hired in 2015 to supply substitute teachers for classrooms, the Inquirer reported on Friday.

The decision to outsource substitutes was criticized from the start by the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, whose members used to fill in for absent district teachers. But the district was confident that privatizing that service would pay off. It agreed to pay the Cherry Hill-based firm $34 million for two years. In turn, Source4Teachers agreed to fill 75 percent of vacant classrooms on the first day of school last fall and 90 percent by the beginning of this year.

It failed in spectacular fashion. The Inquirer reported in September that the firm only filled 11 percent of classrooms on the first day of school. In February, Newsworks reported that the fill rate had barely climbed above one-third by the end of last year. A substantial number of schools had single-digit fill rates, and some schools have practically gone without substitutes, according to the Newsworks report.

“I am committed to resolving the substitute teacher staffing challenges long facing our schools,” Superintendent William Hite told the Inquirer. “Our effort to improve substitute coverage this year fell woefully short.”

Source4Teachers told the Inquirer that it had been picking up steam in the last few months. But apparently, the firm was holding out for better terms in the second year of its contract. From the newspaper:

Owen Murphy, a spokesman for Source4Teachers, said the company notified the district at the end of March that it was not willing to pursue a second year under the current contract and wanted to negotiate different terms.

“We’re disappointed that the district did not engage us in those conversations, instead choosing to grant a different organization the opportunity to perform our service,” Murphy wrote in an email Thursday evening.

“We knew that working in the School District of Philadelphia would be difficult, but it was a challenge we openly accepted. We remain confident that, if we were to be a partner a second year, we’d leverage our momentum and nine-plus months of learning to reach the fill rates the district had hoped for.”

The district will hire Kelly Services, which is based in Philadelphia, to provide substitutes for the next school year.

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