It’s a common occurrence in schools all across the country: teachers can’t make it into work and substitutes are called to fill their places.
In the Puyallup School District, there are five employees in the Human Resources Department working behind the scenes to fill these spaces — and they do so at a 99.5 percent rate each day.
“There are a lot of moving parts,” said Brian Fox, executive director of communications, about the district, which is in the top ten largest school districts in the state. “There’s a handful of staff in the Human Resources Center who are hardly recognized.”
But those five employees were recognized Jan. 3 at the Puyallup School District board meeting.
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“Each day, nearly 100 percent of the time, (teachers) can rely on someone to fill their position if they can’t make it to work,” Fox said at the meeting.
And it’s not just someone to fill the position, but someone qualified and prepared, he added.
“Our goal is that there isn’t any fall-off in instruction when a teacher is gone,” said Human Resources director Ailene Baxter, who oversees the sub office. “We want that instruction to be as good as it can possibly be.”
Our goal is that there isn’t any fall-off in instruction when a teacher is gone. We want that instruction to be as good as it can possibly be.
Ailene Baxter, human resources director for the Puyallup School District
Human Resources specialists Krista McBride and Rhonda Knudson are responsible for the entire application system by recruiting applicants, screening them and guiding them through the application process, ensuring that district expectations are met.
“They build a pool of eager and prepared substitutes,” Fox said.
Johna Noble (Region 1), Tyler Ann Maringer (Region 2) and Melissa Hooker (Region 3) are substitute coordinators in control of regions covering different Puyallup schools. Together, they use an automated system that places substitutes where teachers are absent, but they also connect with substitutes by phone, and in some cases can make up to 50 phone calls to fill one position.
“Those sub teams are constantly working those phone lines to make sure we have (replacements),” Baxter said. “Our target is by 10 a.m every morning we do a check of the system. We take a look at the absences and fill rate.”
And every day, they hope to find that they’ve successfully placed substitutes at a rate of 100 percent. Fox likened the group to “magicians.”
They make everything look effortless.
Brian Fox, executive director of communications for the Puyallup School District
“They make everything look effortless,” he said.
“The way they work — they are magical,” agreed Baxter.
The work of the sub office is also making substitutes interested in a deeper level of training, and the district is currently in the process of creating sub training that is specific to special education classrooms.
Staff members can worry less about their classes when they need to be gone, Fox said.
“Staff can focus on work other than finding classroom coverage,” he said. “This is a great example of systems that serve.”
“It’s behind-the-scenes work that people don’t realize happens,” said board president Dane Looker at the meeting as he thanked the group.