Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
Kelly Educational Staffing has a big undertaking in Albuquerque.
The staffing agency is aiming to increase substitute teacher recruitment for Albuquerque Public Schools at a time when the district, the state and the nation face a teacher shortage. It’s also inheriting and managing the district’s current subs and substitute educational assistants.
All of this follows recent criteria shifts in the state for retirees who return to the classroom.
But Kelly Educational Staffing officials are hopeful, saying they are getting creative with the recruitment and specialize in this type of work.
Kelly Educational Staffing, a speciality division of Kelly Services, officially took over management of the district’s subs on Monday.
Brittna Valenzuela, Kelly’s vice president and practice leader of the Southwest, told the Journal that as of Monday, 809 substitute teachers had transitioned to Kelly and 350 new substitute teachers are in the pipeline.
“The total number of teachers that have transitioned, plus those actively in the talent pool, is 1,100,” Valenzuela said.
That 1,100 is the same number of subs APS had earlier this year, according to a July count. Valenzuela said that 50% to 75% of a district’s subs will typically transition over and that APS is on the “high end” of that.
“This is our starting point. We’re continuing to transition substitute teachers to Kelly and hold recruiting events for new substitutes. This will be an ongoing recruiting campaign throughout the school year,” Valenzuela said.
According to a 2019 educator vacancy report, there were 644 teacher vacancies in the state as of last month.
Nicola Soares, senior vice president at Kelly Educational Staffing, noted that the teacher shortage increases the demands for subs.
“We are not in the substitute teacher business. I believe we are in the teacher shortage business these days,” Soares said.
APS said the move to a staffing agency for subs, which was a first for the district, was aimed at increasing the district’s low number of substitutes.
Patricia Davis, Kelly’s client service lead for New Mexico, and Valenzuela said Albuquerque is a “unique market” and the company is using unorthodox recruiting ideas.
For instance, Kelly Educational Staffing used a “mobile branch,” an office in an automobile, to take the staffing agency directly to people, giving them résumé tips or setting up interview times. In October, it went to schools, APS main offices, the Hispano Chamber of Commerce and even a tailgate party at Dreamstyle Stadium.
The company also turned to Craigslist for advertising sub slots – a site that would typically bring to mind secondhand furniture and odd jobs.
“The Albuquerque market is unique. And so you see the Craigslist posting and it’s because we have had to use what I would call non-traditional recruiting tactics to reach the talent in the local market there,” Valenzuela said. “Just basically having to use a variety of tools and tactics to be able to attract really good-quality candidates to put in an APS classroom.”
She said Kelly Education has used Craigslist in other states that had similar challenges hiring subs.
With the callout so widespread, the Kelly Education team says it has measures in place to make sure the subs are an apt fit.
“Not only do we vet with pre-screening and a behavioral interview; we also have trainings, and they do have to pass that training before they can go through the process completely,” Davis said, adding that the trainings are classroom-specific.
Kelly Educational Services also provides bonuses and other benefits that staffers think will be crucial in the hunt, which, under APS, hourly employees, such as subs, weren’t eligible for.
This is the first large district Kelly Educational Services has taken on in New Mexico. It worked previously with smaller charter schools in Albuquerque.
In addition to a teacher shortage, legislative and Educational Retirement Board rule changes are also part of the substitute hiring context.
Retired teachers who go back to sub and who are collecting their pensions cannot work more than a quarter of full-time equivalent hours unless they are part of the “return to work program” already established in the state. It requires retirees to take a year off from education work before getting back into the classroom and has them resume paying into the retirement fund.
Previously, retirees were permitted to work the greater of $15,000 a year or 0.25 FTE. Under this, they were not contributing to the ERB.
But the $15,000 cap was removed as an option. Subs the Journal spoke to said they relied on that route and pushed back when it was removed.
Jan Goodwin, executive director of the New Mexico Educational Retirement Board, said the $15,000-a-year cap was removed as an option because of concern retirees were working more than the 0.25 FTE and to conform with the Internal Revenue Service. Asked whether the ERB has been out of compliance in the past, Goodwin said that the ERB $15,000 cap “had the potential to be” and the move was made to avoid breaking IRS rules.
APS officials had initially said subs wouldn’t have to pay into the ERB under Kelly Education, which was billed as a perk. However, Soares said that’s not the case. Goodwin also confirmed that subs in the return-to-work program who work under Kelly Education do have to pay into the ERB, as does the employer, adding that the schedule requirements also apply.
And subs who work 0.25 FTE or less – even under a staffing agency – and their employers will start paying contributions July 1.
APS spokeswoman Johanna King said APS’ original understanding was that subs under the staffing agency were exempt from ERB contributions.
“We thought subs wouldn’t have to pay into this, and we thought that would be a benefit to them, but it wasn’t the main reason,” she said, adding that boosting sub fill rates is the main goal.
Soares said that although Kelly is based in Michigan, there is a local office and that people are working with the state to address New Mexico-specific requirements.