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    How school district administrators make the case for a substitute teaching partnership.

    teacher talking to two elementary students

    As school districts continue to face substitute teacher staffing challenges, outsourcing has emerged as a valuable strategic solution. To be successful and sustainable, all stakeholders — from the superintendent and school board to the faculty and even the wider community — need to understand the benefits of working with a strong partner with a proven track record in providing quality substitute teachers. 

    Often, district administrators tell us at Kelly Education that some stakeholders say “outsourcing” makes them uncomfortable. While they outsource construction projects or food service, the thought of using a third party to deliver instruction seems different. So, year after year, the district struggles to fill classrooms. They double up classes, principals cover periods, or they juggle teachers' prep periods which contributes to burnout.  

    But they don’t have to!  

    Thousands of districts across the country have embraced partnerships resulting in cost savings and risk reduction. They’ve eliminated the demanding recruiting and hiring cycles, and improved safety and retention by providing substitute educators with benefits that include professional development. Through the staffing partnership, these districts gained an entire team of skilled education-focused recruiters, onboarders, benefits administrators, and human resources managers. 

    If you are a district administrator who sees the benefits to partnership but are struggling to make the case to others in the district, there are a few change management techniques that you can harness. 

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    #1: Identify and analyze the stakeholders’ critical needs, preferences, and questions.  

    As a leader, you know the key players in your district’s decision-making process. Typically, this includes the superintendent and other cabinet members, procurement office, principals, teachers, school staff, and school board members, as well as external stakeholders such as unions and collective bargaining groups, parent advocacy groups, and community members. Even student representatives on school boards are helpful voices. Hearing from students who see firsthand the lack of qualified substitute teachers in their classrooms can be a powerful influence.  

    After analyzing your list of stakeholders, categorize the champions, detractors, and neutral parties. While it's tempting to concentrate on winning over detractors, we’ve seen districts achieve greater success when they focus on neutral parties. By understanding their specific concerns and delivering answers that fulfill their unique needs, you can transform their indecision into support, turning them into champions. Here are some common and valid concerns:  


    • What have we done on our own to bolster the substitute teacher pool to continue learning so that our students are achieving state-mandated grade level standards even when their teachers are out? 
    • How fast can the partner get us a pool of reliable, trained substitute educators stop burn-out? 
    • How does a staffing partner help us to better keep students safe and under the supervision of qualified adults? 

    Financial Teams:  

    • What strategies do third parties bring to reduce the cost of recruiting and hiring substitute teachers who traditionally have a high turnover rate? 
    • What type of cost savings can be realized by transferring ACA coverage, wage and tax responsibilities, and workers’ compensation liabilities? 
    • In developing a cost/benefit analysis - what cost savings can be realized when the partner covers the fees associated with absence management technology? 

    Community Members: 

    • How many wasted instructional hours are currently spent with untrained substitute teachers or others babysitting classrooms? 
    • Where has this successfully worked elsewhere? 
    • Who are these “outsourced” people and what’s the win-win for community in using a for-profit staffing firm?  

    School Boards: 

    • Why can’t the district do this on its own? What have administrators tried? 
    • What happens when a student is injured because a substitute teacher wasn’t properly vetted, trained, and developed? We need to be aware of possible negative media exposure. 
    • How will this partnership benefit our student outcomes and strengthen our community? Is it an investment in us? 

    #2: Develop and implement a socialization plan.  

    Now that you know where the roadblocks exist, it’s time to socialize the plan. It isn't just about gaining buy-in; it's about rallying a core group of supporters. 

    • Clearly state why you’re choosing a partner. Outline your goals, linking them directly to your district’s broader objectives. By setting measurable targets, you’ll demonstrate the tangible benefits that an external partner brings to the table. For example, this partner will increase the pool of qualified substitute teachers and fill-rates by 20-30% or more in just three months!  
    • Tailor communication to meet each stakeholder group right where they are. Success stories and real-world examples will be key here; showing is always more effective than telling. Aim to paint a vivid picture of success that speaks to each group's specific needs and concerns. Share case studies, websites, checklists, or bring them into conversations. 
    • Reach stakeholders through their preferred channels. People like to consume information in different ways. Use email, newsletters, articles, webinars, or personal meetings. Some like videos, others want to review an RFI, some (actually) want to hear a sales presentation, and still others want to chat with a counterpart at a similar-sized district that has experienced success. 

    When making a change, being consistent with communication is key. Keep the topic on agendas and keep asking what more they need to hear. 

    #3: Support a continuous loop of information sharing and feedback. 

    Once you’ve achieved initial buy-in, it’s time to use these champions. Give them the platform to share their insights about the vision and how the staffing partnership will help transform the quality of education in your district.   Teacher with student. Caption reads: The Checklist - Expert tips for Evaluating School Staffing Providers

    This transparency fosters a collaborative environment and uncovers more blind spots to be addressed. Make sure to document concerns, reach out to the staffing provider to get the answers, then follow-up quickly. Momentum is key and you don’t want to lose it!

    To conclude, partnering with an external company like Kelly Education can only work when school administrators establish trust and foster open communication and collaboration among all stakeholders involved.  

    For more than 25 years, Kelly Education has empowered hundreds of districts nationwide to not only enhance staff retention and satisfaction but also to achieve substantial savings in operational costs and reduced administrative burdens related to recruiting, hiring, and retaining high-quality substitute teachers amid a persistent vacancy crisis.

    Reach out today for a consultation to learn about our mission to keep schools fully staffed—and students learning. 


    About the author: Bobby Schorr is a Regional Vice President of Sales for Kelly Education. With more than 10 years' experience in educational staffing, he's passionate about improving the quality of education for K-12 school districts by solving their challenges related to staffing.

    View Related: K-12 School Districts

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