February 5 — 3:40 pm, 2016

Teacher vacancy rate ‘unacceptable,’ says District’s HR chief

She also confirmed that a Source4Teachers spokesperson overstated its substitute fill-rate for Thursday.

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Kendra-Lee Rosati, the School District’s human resources chief, says that the teacher vacancy rate is "unacceptable," adding that it has been difficult to find people to accept jobs. Thursday’s count was 184 vacancies, remarkably high for this time of year.

Rosati made the comments in a statement released by a District spokeswoman. Her statement: 

The number of vacancies plaguing our schools and students is unacceptable. We are working daily to get more teachers in front of our students. Since December, we have hired 121 teachers, and we continue to recruit actively. However, we have distributed more than 200 offer letters (since December), and there are very few available teachers at this time.

On Source4Teachers, the firm hired to find substitute teachers, Rosati said that it has been increasing both its pipeline of available teachers and its daily "fill rate," although it is about half of what had been promised for January.

Its fill rate for Thursday was 47 percent, not 57 percent, as a spokesman for the company reported Thursday afternoon. The District decided last summer to outsource its substitute service because it could only fill between 55 and 65 percent of its vacancies regularly.

A spokesman for the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, which has been critical of the outsourcing and vocal about its effect on teachers, said that in some schools, including Julia DeBurgos Elementary and Rhodes Elementary, some teachers and administrators have been covering other classes since the beginning of the school year due to vacancies and a shortage of substitutes.

The full text of Rosati’s statement follows: 

We are continuing to see increases in both Source4Teachers’ pipeline of available substitute teachers and its fill rate. As of today, Source4Teachers has 510 substitute teachers in place and that pipeline continues to grow. The fill rate, though still well below 90 percent, has been increasing month-by-month. As the pipeline of substitutes continues to increase, we expect the fill rate to rise as well.

To ensure that Source4Teachers’ focus remains on getting more and more teachers in front of our students, we have taken back responsibility for filling principal absences, as well as long-term substitute absences. While we are not satisfied with our present results, we see Source4Teachers continuously working to turn around a difficult situation. However, since Source4Teachers is not hitting the contractual fill rate, it has been subject to the penalties outlined in our contract. We continue to work closely with Source4Teachers and monitor its progress. We and Source4Teachers remain dissatisfied with the lack of teachers in front of our students each day; however, we are still committed to our partnership, as we know that it’s better to have the 510 substitute teachers working with our students, rather than no substitute teachers at all.

 

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