Camden School District hires private substitute-teacher agency

Posted: August 16, 2012

The Camden City School Board approved a $1.2 million contract Tuesday evening with a South Jersey-based substitute-teacher placement agency for the 2012-13 school year.

Officials said the board's decision to privatize substitute services by hiring Source 4 Teachers L.L.C. was prompted both by a high teacher-absentee rate in the district and by difficulty obtaining certified teachers as substitutes.

Between teachers calling out sick and those on leave, the district must find substitutes each day for as much as 40 percent of its teaching staff. And while many of the substitutes have higher-education degrees, including doctorates in their career fields, not all are certified teachers.

New Jersey law requires that substitute teachers have at least 60 college credits to be certified. However, a substitute filling in long-term in the same classroom - more than 20 days - must also have a teacher certification.

During the last school year, there were 185 long-term teacher absences, only 26 of which were covered by certified teachers, according to the board resolution that approved the hiring of Source 4 Teachers. It said the company was the only one that bid.

The head of the Camden substitute-teachers' union, Al Driggins, said the current substitutes should not pay the price for the district's staffing problems.

"They have the certifications the board asked for and what the state law calls for," Driggins said. "We don't know why they fired all the substitutes."

The current Camden substitute teachers will be offered jobs through Source 4 Teachers, said company vice president Andrew Hall. The Mount Laurel company has a network of 5,000 substitutes in New Jersey, more than half of whom are certified teachers, Hall said.

The company's subs will be paid the current subbing rates of $80 or $90 per day, depending on certification, Hall said.

Source 4 Teachers, which was started in 2000 by a former Haddon Township School District principal, has contracts to provide substitute teachers for about 100 districts in New Jersey and elsewhere, including Haddonfield, Winslow, and Medford.

Part of the state's recent in-depth review of the Camden district was that it get its personnel issues in order, including substitutes, said acting Superintendent Reuben Mills.

Source 4 Teachers has an automated system in which a teacher who is going to call out goes on its website to report his or her absence, and the website automatically calls teachers who would be a good match for that particular class. Whoever accepts the assignment first, Hall said, gets it.


Contact Claudia Vargas at 856-779-3917, cvargas@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @InqCVargas. Read her blog, "Camden Flow," at www.philly.com/camden_flow

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