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Jabbia Delays ESS Sub Contract, But He Still Really Wants It.

October 2, 2022

On September 18, 2022, I posted about how the St. Tammany Schools (STPPS) (LA) superintendent Frank Jabbia and members of the school board are pushing to contract with a third party, Education Solutions Services, LLC (ESS), to address STPPS’s sub shortage.

Instead of addressing the issue head-on by following sensible courses of action that STPPS HR could approach without paying a third party to (at best) do what it could have done without the added layer of expense (see suggestions at end of thos post), instead, it seems that Jabbia would rather throw money at a company that makes no promise in writing to solve a staffing shortage “or your money back.” (Prove me wrong by showing me such a contract.)

What could very well happen is that such a move would cause chaos, as all subs currently contracted with STPPS would be dropped and have to choose to become employees of ESS. Furhtermore, if STPPS decides to end its business relationship with ESS in the future, STPPS could owe ESS a fee ($2,500 seems to be the standard) for each sub contracted by ESS to work in STPPS during the contract period. And that assumes, once again, that subs would choose to transition from ESS to STPPS, even as it assumes that if this Great Idea goes bust, subs originally with STPPS and forced to switch to ESS would not become frustrated with having to once agan make an employer switch from ESS back to STPPS.

In my original post, I included a contract between ESS and Thomasville City Schools (NC) for 2021-22. I will add here a second contract, this time between ESS and Tangipahoa Public Schools (LA) for 2020-23. The language in both appears to be ESS boilerplate.

What I have learned since my initial posting on September 18, 2022, is that a few days prior, on September 15, 2022, Jabbia decided to forego an immediate push to have STPPS conntract with ESS for subs, not in favor of making any notable changes for active recruitment of subs by STPPS’s own HR, but in favor of collecting more data and proceeding how he wants to anyway in his *unwavering support* and *strong feelings* for contracting with ESS in the future, anyway.

Below is Jabbia’s September 15, 2022, email to STPPS board members, Associate Superintendent Steve Alfonso, and Secretary to the Superintendent, Christy Coakley.

From: Jabbia, Frank J.
Sent: Thursday, September 15, 2022 1:02:12 PM
To: STPSB Board Members
Cc: Coakley, Christy R.; Alfonso, Steve E.
Subject: ESS Update

Board Members:

After further consideration of multiple factors, we have decided to table the recommendation for the acceptance to partner with ESS (Educational Management and Staffing Solutions).  Additional time will allow the district to access the impact of our new hourly substitute rates relative to the recruitment and retention of subs in the teacher, para, and custodial job classes.  The percentage of daily fill rates for each job class will be reviewed and compared to the previous years.  This information coupled with a more stable work environment first semester post-Covid should reflect an accurate picture our progress.  We look forward to the opportunity to share these findings with you in the Spring.

We do not waiver in our support of ESS and feel strongly that this partnership is a viable option for our school system.  As mentioned in our initial discussion, ESS’s services are dedicated solely to K-12 school districts, they can provide incentives to substitutes not allowed by school systems, they have a presence in multiple states, and recently contracted with St. Charles School System, East Baton Rouge School System, and Tangipahoa School System. 

As always, thank you for your input and for sharing the questions and concerns of your constituents.

Mr. Alfonso will provide an update for all at CAW (Committe as a Whole) in October.

Sincerely,

Frank J. Jabbia

Superintendent

St. Tammany Parish Public School System

Phone: 985.898.3216

www.stpsb.orgFacebook | Twitter | Instagram

#STPPSImpact

The superintendent does not seem interested in collecting data on how often ESS has actually contributed to solving a staffing crisis for a school or district, or how much ESS’s services cost when comparing projected cost to actual cost, or if any districts were actually worse off after contracting with ESS for staffing issues (in what contexts and to what degree).

He does seem invested in *feeling strongly.*

STPPS does have its own HR department, and rather than passively wait for some data to roll in, perhaps the superintendent and board might actively invest in some of the following efforts in house before placing taxpayer dollars at Third Party feet. The ideas below were sent to me by a friend who has HR experience with a major corporation.

These are not new ideas. They are good, solid, and largely ignored by those with the power to even pilot them.

Creative ways to handle substitute issue…

1. Look at hiring permanent substitutes. Our parish has long been a place teachers want to teach. We turn away hundreds every year at job fair. Why not look at permanent subs? Set it up to pay them somewhere between a para and a first year teacher. Assign them to a group of schools in a geographical area (Slidell, Mandeville, Abita, etc). Exempt the position from state retirement. Market it as a chance to get in the system; allow them to attend the transfer fair. This alone would get us qualified teachers in the classroom and be a recruiting edge for us in June to draw even more people to our career fair. Many systems across the nation do this…we should look at the feasibility of this.

2. Money helps. Our subs get paid less than if they are working as a cashier at [corporation]. Consider boosting daily pay by $35 for both certified and non-certified substitutes. Here’s an idea as well…offer a monthly bonus of maybe $200 if a substitute works 14 or more days. There are only about 22 working days a month, so a sub working 2/3 of the month gets a bonus, which would incentivize them to work more and the more they work, the more they feel part of the system. But pay HAS to be addressed in one form or another.

3. We need to let retired educators know we need their help. Send out a personal letter asking them to be a sub for their old school or if possible, other schools in the area of their residence. Make them feel appreciated and cut the red tape. If we have a former teacher that wants to be a sub, then we should not have to make that person go through training and a long wait time to get them in the classroom. Sign up with personnel, have them in the room within the next week. He limitations on retired teachers working as subs is ridiculous and should be eliminated.

4. We need to be recruiting in at least 4 areas that we are currently not. First, senior citizens. Yes, some people are worried about COVID, but there are many seniors who would love the chance to be active, useful, and get paid. Second, recruit college students. Whether at Northshore Tech or someone commuting to SLU, UNO, Tulane, Southern NO, etc., these are people looking to become professionals and would have energy, could use the money, and would be motivated to do well to help their resume. Next, what about policemen and fire department workers? Firemen work 24 on and 48 off. Plenty of days they could earn extra money in their community. Both police and firemen would have no issues with background checks, work well under pressure, and command respect in the classroom. Finally, the military. We should be aggressively recruiting anyone that served in the military to join the sub list for the same reasons as police and fire department workers.

5. The entire process needs to be streamlined and fast-tracked. First and foremost, WAIVE THE $50 application fee. Really? Who pays to apply for a job? Think about it…we are asking someone to pay to apply and at present rates, will take them 2/3 of a day to earn it back. Ridiculous.

Background checks are a must, but our current process takes way too long. There should not be a “screening” process by someone in central office to determine who can or cannot be a sub; word is that is happening right now in Covington. If someone has applied, their resume/application should be treated the same as any job. There should be an established and made-public rubric as to what qualifications are needed and ANYONE that meets the criteria gets moved on. It should not be put on the principals to have potential subs go through them; it should be done at both the central office in Covington as well as a location in Slidell to make the process more efficient at both ends of the parish. Applicants should be allowed to sub for as many schools as they wish to be on the list for…this is 2022 and people have to many flexible options for work. Limiting them to 3 schools is antiquated. If someone checks the boxes, a background check is done at that point. Needs to have results within 48 hours. If that passes, then they should receive PAID training; should take no more than 2 days. If it is a former teacher, train them only on whatever modified system (see #8) we have for sub use and they’re ready to go.

6. Require teachers to leave DETAILED plans for when they will be out and a minimum 2 days of work. The last thing we need is to have substitutes with not enough work to give kids. Also, there needs to be a periodic visit by an administrator to the class during the day to show support and ensure no discipline issues are happening. Students that act up in a subs class need to receive serious accountability or subs will not return. They should be removed immediately and put in ISS the rest of the day and/or next day.

7. Don’t make subs cover other classes when they have a “planning” period. Allow the sub time to relax, regroup, and prepare as needed for the next class. Ensure the sub has a break.

8. There should be a system the sub can log into that has some basic information about the students and an electronic roll to make that easier for them. We cannot expect them to want to come back if we treat them as if we don’t trust them or want them there in the first place. We have the technology…they should be able to see a kid’s schedule, overall grades, and if there are any issues. We do a background check…if a sub violates and privacy issues then they are held accountable as a teacher would, but we need to put trust in them or they won’t trust us.

9. Subs need to feel valued. We give free lunches to thousands of kids each day. Why not subs? There should be assigned parking in a place up front for subs. ANYTHING we could do to make them feel wanted should be our goal. We do a terrible job as a parish in making our employees feel valued. The more you value your employees, the less turnover you have, the more professionalism you have, and the fewer issues you have in the classroom.

10. FORGOT THIS ONE…this is something we used to do at [corporation] to get associates to recommend quality POSSIBLE EMPLOYEES. There should be a bonus given to ANY current STPPS employee who refers someone to become a substitute and that sub works a minimum number of days in their first semester. For instance, a bus driver recommends Matt. He works a total of 50 days in his first full semester as a sub. The bus driver should get a one-time bonus of say, $150. It would incentivize current employees to refer/recommend someone AND they would probably remind them to continue to sub so they could get the bonus. Worked well with [corporation].

As for the last idea, I spoke with St.Tammany Federation of Teachers (StTFed) president, Brant Osborn, who said that StTFed is in the process of setting up a referral bonus for union members who refer an individual as a substitute; once the referred individual completes a certain number of days as a sub, the person referring the new sub woud receive $100. For more information on this, contact Brant Osborn.

Our district can do more in-house to recruit and retain substitute teachers. The real problem is that they simply won’t.

ESS is not a magical solution, but it sure is a way to defer responsibility, to enhance the appearance of trying to do something even as one ignores pursuing numerous more logical, practical, cost-effective, and efficient courses of action.

Prove me wrong.

______________________________________

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2 Comments
  1. Sarah Meyer permalink

    These are fabulous ideas!! You should email this to all schoolboard members!

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