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PCSD says, “Happy Thanksgiving, you’re fired.”

It’s hard to believe that PCSD students are into their third month of in-person school – that’s a huge victory for kids, the district, and working families.  In-person school tops our household list of things to be thankful for this year.

That’s due to hard work (and some luck) at many levels – and a group that has played an outsized role this year — substitute teachers. Subs fly under the public radar most of the time. They’re not your kid’s daily teacher, and you’ll often never meet one. They don’t usually sign report cards and your child might not remember their name.

But this year more than ever, subs are critical. If a teacher isn’t feeling well, or their child at the high school is quarantining, they have no choice – they can’t come to work. That means subs have to step in to keep the school functioning.  Many subs also work long-term jobs of 3 or more weeks, sometimes the entire school year. 

It’s news to no one that teachers are underpaid. But subs do much worse – $13-15 an hour, with no benefits. That’s right, you can literally start for the same amount at Smith’s. Subs receive no benefits whatsoever – but they come to work anyway, because they’re parents and community members who care deeply about kids and education.

So when PCSD announced that effective January 3rd, the entire substitute teacher corps would no longer be employed by the district, and instead would work for a 3rd party temp agency called EDUStaff, based in Michigan, our reaction was disbelief.  Every current sub must reapply for their current job, including spending hours on an online application (literally, we spoke with a sub who is on hour 3 and at step 10 of 22) and an in-person interview – which conveniently can only be scheduled during the school day

The district claims that they need more subs and that hiring this 3rd party company is a way to get them. 

At the Park Rag, we have a number of questions about this:

  • Shouldn’t our first priority be to retain the subs we have? Many subs feel disrespected and unvalued. One sub we contacted told us “I didn’t sign up to work for a temp agency.” They take pride in working for the district, even for minimal pay and respect. Many may quit. 
  • If hiring more subs was a priority, why didn’t this happen over the summer? Why change the entire system in the middle of the school year? Subs and teachers tell us they had no warning of this change and were never consulted until the announcement dropped – the day before Thanksgiving break
  • Where was the outreach to parents and community members? We can’t recall hearing a word about substitutes on KPCW, the Park Record, or via direct communication from the district. Our natural sub pool lives right here in Park City – but it doesn’t appear PCSD ever reached out to them.
  • EDUStaff presumably makes money on this arrangement. Why not try raising the sub pay, advertising for subs, or paying referral bonuses to teachers/subs who recruit new substitutes? This is money that could be used to actually solve the problem.

When you’re in a hole, stop digging. Low pay, low respect, and little or no effort at recruiting/retaining subs has indeed resulted in a shortage.  Throwing the subs we have further under the bus will exacerbate it. 

At a macro level, this may be just as bad. Making a fundamental change on the night before schools go on Thanksgiving Break is ill-timed. It feels like an action a large corporation would take when it’s trying to get away with something. It doesn’t engender trust with the public.

We hope that the Park City School District will reconsider this decision. If not, the substitute teacher shortage may become even worse. No one likes to feel treated like crap.

Note: You can read PCSD’s comment on the issue here.

Comments

19 Comments

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PCSD Teacher

Just what I would expect from this district.

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PCSD teacher 2

Wow! This district does not value people first- all about cutting costs!! Happy Thanksgiving!! 😡

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Walt

It’s worse than that, they’re not even cutting costs here. It’s MORE expensive to hire out via a temp agency. Drive away community members+spend more money… who thought this was a good idea?

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Just Being Practical

This third-party contract, which obviously costs taxpayers, would be unbelievable under normal public school business circumstances, especially given the big reveal AFTER the contract was signed. When you consider just how much money third-party vendors are making on our dime through PCSD, behind the veil, it makes sense.

Also consider how much they pay PCEF to fundraise, and don’t pay PTSOs to do the lion’s share of communicating.

It seems like PCSD is more top-heavy now than ever, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars for assumed expertise, at the same time it’s outsourcing all their job description responsibilities.

Does any of this seem outrageous and unprofessional to anyone? Or is it under the radar because, eh, it’s the PCSD way?

It would be in the public’s interest to learn about all the third-party vendors PCSD pays annually, per capita, or monthly for services and software, because I’d be willing to bet nothing has been streamlined or interfaced or otherwise linked for the sole benefit of students, teachers, and education.

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Walt

Yeah, if they’re going to outsource some of HR, which is basically what’s happening here, why not eliminate an HR position, or cut hours/salary?

Better yet, HR can work through EDUStaff and have a taste of their own medicine…

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Concerned Parent

This district is a joke. All about the appearance rather than reality and taking care of teachers and subs. Being either one is a lot of work and deserves upmost respect. Glidea and the Board should let go of their egos!

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Sarah Altschuler

As a sub, I was taken completely off-guard. I attended the School Board meeting in October and spoke during the public comment session to make sure it was understood that having only one sub (me) at an elementary school was not cutting it. There was a reference to seeking third party assistance to find more subs. I wish I had really paid attention to that, I wish I had asked questions then (though I doubt it would have made any difference). I made the assumption that it had something to do with recruiting subs, but I never thought I would have my employment revoked and be told to reapply to some out of state company that doesn’t know me and certainly doesn’t care. This is not what I signed up for. This is not what any district employee signed up for. I think of myself as part of a team and part of a community. I have never thought of myself as part of a “temporary workforce”, but it seems that is how the district thinks of me.

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dkraker

It is said leadership starts at the top and should be a positive trickle-down effect. PCSD has a serious lack of leadership. If the current pretend superintendent was truly working for the best PCSD could be this district would be outstanding. Sadly, she just wants to create new positions and go on regular hiring sprees. Spend money as fast as you can seem to be her motto.
Sadly, the children ultimately wind up paying the price for her lack of leadership and disregard for their education.

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Sarah Altschuler

I think creating new positions is great when it directly impacts students and teachers. For example, I think the permanent sub positions are a really brilliant addition.

I actually think this problem is an HR issue. When I and other subs brought our concerns to the HR department on Tuesday, we were completely brushed off. We received almost identical emails to direct our concerns to our “new employers” during the interview process. When composing an email to the district I found that the email address of the new head of HR isn’t even on the website. I don’t know what has been/is going on in that department, but there have been multiple instances this year of what would be objectively considered serious missteps, including closing a substitute teacher application from a former district teacher and changing salary and benefits for a position from what was posted when an applicant went to sign on the dotted line.

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Paula Larson

Sarah, I’m a sub and had the same reaction this week when I contacted district about this situation. I was told I’m no longer an employee and to bring my concerns to the new company. Well I have sub jobs lined up for December so I am still subbing for PCSD but can’t get my questions answered. Very upsetting and disappointing situation.

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0bserver

Ths very much seems like a decision that was made in a vacuum, without consultation of teachers or subs. While it may resolve some issues, it will no doubt have some unintended consequences as well. In this case, the idea that the current subs (many of which carry a large load) will return. From the ones I know (quite few actually) none plan to return under this new employer. The author hit it on the head when he said “but they come to work anyway, because they’re parents and community members who care deeply about kids and education.” Nothing says “expendable” or “not part of the team” like outsourcing your job to a temp agency from Grand Rapids Michigan. These are not high paying jobs – people do it because they care. When that respect is not reciprocated, it is hard to justify coming back.

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Liuda Avizonis

You are correct. I sometimes wonder who and why are the people in charge?

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Anonymous

Substitutes are hit this time, para professionals are next. Thanks to our union we have stayed this decision for now. The classified union wasn’t able to get even a cola. Look at how many jobs are posted for 19.5 hours or 29.5 hours. That is simply disrespect for employees to short their hours 30 minutes to keep from paying benefits. I know Petra fought hard against this when she was on the board, but it is the principals of each school that does this to save every penny. In my opinion, the district simply doesn’t respect anyone without a license and a fancy title.

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Sophie Moffat

There has been a shortage of subs for years and most of the subs I know, sub because they are parents or part of our community and want a quality education for our kids. Those subs are known by name by the students and the teachers and well liked. It is not the low pay and the no benefit that entice them or the call early in the morning to assign them a job. If those subs do not feel like they are part of the community, they will not come back. If PCSD was not able to recruits more subs, how a company from Michigan is going to do it? I would like more explanation from the district. There are so many things that could solve this subs shortages such as better pay, some benefits for subs teaching more than a certain numbers of days a year, having a few permanents subs assigned to school with a guaranteed pay, outreach to student in teaching program in Westminster or the U of U to entice them to come subs , having our subs feel like their work is appreciated and that they are part of the district by having training sessions regularly, that would also help by having well trained subs….It will be interesting to see how this turn out but ultimately our students are paying the price when our subs are not valued and are underpaid by not having a trained and motivated subs when a teacher is absent.

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Park City Schools

There is little to no noticeable difference for our substitute teachers other than who is paying them. Substitute teachers will receive more frequent pay and are able to sign up for benefits. While the transition period may seem cumbersome or untimely, this change will ultimately benefit our staff, students and current substitute teachers. We are and will continue to be thankful for our parents and community members who have stepped in.

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Walt

Dude, more frequent pay?!?! They’re not doing it for the pay! Frequent pay is what you advertise when you’re trying to hire ditch diggers!

How are subs going to stay in email contact with parents and teachers? Will they lose their PCSD email addresses? How will you check out equipment like laptops to them? How will you issue them badges?

And of course, most important – how much is this costing? Why aren’t we spending that money directly on the subs?

I’m considering filing a freedom of information act request on this if we don’t get a straight answer about the cost.

If there’s little or no noticeable difference for the subs, I’ll eat my hat.

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Darn Tootn

PCSD, you didn’t even bother to read all the comments. You don’t listen, you don’t care, and you prove it over and over.
Here’s a homework assignment for you. Read all the comments to the Park Rag article & your published response. Identify at least 10 ways you could’ve handled this purchase better and what you’d do differently if you could change it. Then change it. Then apologize to the people you hurt.
For extra credit, identify at least 10 software and other programs you could cut today that no one would miss and save money to use for teachers and subs. Then do that, too. You’re welcome.

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Observer

PCS – thank you for your timely reply. But you seem to still miss the point, that to a lot of the subs, this is very much a noticeable difference, as they are no longer “part of the team.” When this first came out, several reached out to the schools they sub for only to be told to “bring it up with your new employer” type response. Very much on the outside it would seem now. Perhaps this will work out fine – I expect not. For example – I know a lot of the teachers have good relationships with different subs, and will reach out directly to them as they know the kids, the class, Etc. Basically bypass the “smart find express” system and go direct to the person they best feel can cover the class in a value added manner. Ask any teacher and this is a big deal. I would hate to lose this going through a 3rd party vendor. Hopefully this, and the multitude of other small nuances in the school/teacher/sub relationship have been taken into consideration. With the apparent total lack of communication and transparency on this, it’s hard to know how much “front line” understanding went into this decision though.

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anonymous

PCSD leadership owes the community an explanation for making this change in the midst of the most challenging school year ever experienced by teachers, staff and students. What benefits were so significant to justify this change at this time? What efforts were made to recruit substitutes locally before decision to outsource.? I haven’t seen any meaningful outreach to community to recruit new substitute teachers.


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