Stage: Shortcomings with substitute service has left AASD struggling

Athens Superintendent Craig Stage said the district has been underserved in its contract with substitute provider ESS.

ATHENS — A company that the Athens Area School District and others have contracted with to provide substitutes has not been holding up its end of the bargain, according to Athens Superintendent Craig Stage.

During Tuesday’s school board meeting, Stage expressed his disappointment with ESS — formerly known as Source4Teachers — which he and other administrators said have left the school district in need on several occasions, hindering opportunities for professional development and causing staff to go “above and beyond to help out.”

“We are in a binding contract, but I want to make sure they are meeting all of the components of our contractual language. If they are not, I’m going to hold them accountable to that,” said Stage. “We’ve had a terrible fill rate. … We’re struggling, and we’re not alone. We’re working closely with the Blast IU 17, which is experiencing a similar issue. It’s really put a strain on everything that we’re trying to do here. We’ve had to cancel professional learning. We’ve had to make changes in terms of covering for classroom teacher shortages. We don’t always have aides available for our students. So it’s been a tremendous burden on every employee in this district.”

According to meeting minutes, the Athens Area School District renewed its agreement with Source4Teachers in March of 2017, extending service through June 30, 2021.

Stage said the school district is currently exploring legal options to hold the contractor accountable to their agreement and, if the service doesn’t improve, he is ready to explore all options once the contract expires.

In the meantime, Director of Curriculum and Instruction Jamie Schuler said they are looking at some “creative options,” and are bringing teachers into the conversation when it comes to curriculum, instruction, and assessments.

“We’re working together as a team to make those sacrifices as much as we can, and we are appreciative of the teachers being as flexible as they can,” said Schuler.

Stage also applauded administrators, teachers, and staff for how they have stepped up with these shortages.

“They (ESS) have not met our needs in the last few years,” said Stage. “Student learning is suffering. Morale is suffering. My administrators are spending their valuable time covering classrooms and not meeting the needs of staff and students.”

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