Dexter Community Schools joined the rest of the county and Washtenaw Intermediate School District in signing on Grand Rapids-based EduStaff to handle sourcing and managing substitute teachers throughout Dexter’s school system.
The district also gave control of most staffing concerns for Community Education to the company, due to the school district unit being in six-figure arrears financially.
“We handle it ourselves, but we’re a couple of hundred thousand dollars upside down,” DCS Superintendent Chris Timmis said before the Board of Education unanimously adopted both measures.
District officials have been preparing to gird Dexter schools financially for the possible defeat of the special education enhancement millage that will be on the May 3 ballot. If it passes there’s a $25,000 deficit next year, while it’s defeat would mean facing a $1.5 million deficit, since the millage would pay $1.3 to $1.5 million of the $1.7 million in special education costs that isn’t covered by the $5.2 million in state and federal funding that the district receives.
EduStaff’s involvement in Community Education would save the district $116,000.
“Everything is going to stay the same,” Covert said. “Programmatically we will stay the same — nothing will change. Nobody will lose their job. We would just have a third party company that is going to source and solicit staff.”
Covert’s department moved preschool operations to the Generations Together facility, which is now referred to as the Jenkins Early Childhood Learning Center, after the Jenkins family donated the facility and grounds to the school district in September 2014.
Timmis also said that the district would no longer have to “go it alone” getting substitute teachers in the district with EduStaff on board.
“The entire county through (Washtenaw Intermediate School District) is looking to move to EduStaff for contracting substitute teachers and (substitute) para(professionals) instead of PESG,” he explained.
Having a company more effectively source substitute teachers would have a number of benefits, including reducing the amount of money that the district pays out to those who work as substitutes technically as employees of EduStaff, which the district then reimburses less paying 37 percent of each dollar paid to subs into the state’s Municipal Employees’ Retirement Systems (MERS).
Substitutes make, on average, $95 per day unless they’re already a teacher working for the district under the Dexter Education Association — the union that represents DCS teaching staff. DEA teachers who fill in those gaps that need substitute teaching have typically been paid in a fashion that scales with their regular full-time pay, which is significantly higher at more than $40 per hour.
DEA President Joe Romeo says that he and other regular teachers in the district would be happy if EduStaff can more effectively source substitutes in Dexter, so his already busy members aren’t put in a situation where they’re asked to sub and feel obligated to do it to help out district administrators.
“If I’ve got a class load of five (sections), we don’t want to distract ourselves from our classes and they don’t want to pay the higher rate,” Romeo said. “99 percent of us want to say, ‘No — I don’t want to sub,” if say a teacher gets sick during the day and needs to leave,” but it’s something that DEA members will take on if there’s no other option.
DCS already does this with non-teaching coaches, who have no other employment footprint in the Dexter public education system and wouldn’t have the time put in to participate in MERS like a regular DEA member.
District officials have been talking about substitute teacher shortages for awhile, despite substitute teaching candidates being “happier to come to Dexter than just about anywhere in the county,” Romeo said.
Aside from DEA members being called to substitute as a last resort under EduStaff, Romeo says he’s content with the change in how substitutes are handled unless EduStaff were to start handling positions that would normally be filled by DEA members, although he wasn’t sure about whether or not DEA members would temporarily go under EduStaff and forgo MERS contributions by the district for the time that they step in as a substitute teacher under the agreement in a worst case scenario where EduStaff fails to source a substitute and DEA members are again looked to as a last resort.
Update: DEA members who substitute would be paid as DEA members’ going rate and the district would make MERS contributions for their subbing time, although the goal is to not have DEA members sub, according to district officials.
Calls to DCS Business Manager Sharon Raschke have been made in order to determine how much money DCS pays into MERS and what, if any at this point, are the projected savings that EduStaff’s involvement will realize.
A previous version of this story contained a typo indicating that Community Education Director Kim Covert said that there would be a negative impact on children and families. She said the opposite in a previous report, which is linked to in the body of this article.