Superintendent message sent December 9 to all OSD employees

The following message is a copy, with a clarification and additional information noted in bold in the fifth bullet, of the December 9 email sent by Communications and Community Relations to all OSD employees on behalf of Superintendent Patrick Murphy:

Hello Olympia School District Team,

As you all know, the Olympia School District, like districts across the region, state and country, is experiencing staffing shortages and a lack of substitutes. This has directly impacted many of you as you have been asked to cover for colleagues, accommodate late-arriving students due to canceled bus routes, have lost access to your principal or other staff member who has had to cover a classroom, etc.

We’ve discussed our response to this at board meetings and with district and labor association leaders, and I want to directly share with all of you some specifics around our efforts.

The following are some steps we have taken to mitigate our substitute shortage and related information:

  • We did an all call for any interested community members with a bachelor’s degree to get emergency certified to substitute teach. Information on that is found in this news story posted on the district website: Now Hiring for Substitute Teachers
  • We have had more than 200 individuals express interest in being sponsored as a substitute teacher.
  • We held an orientation twice for prospective substitutes via Zoom.
    • 40 participants attended the afternoon session/21 attended the evening session.
  • Of all those who expressed interest, we have initiated more than 66 prospective substitutes that are currently being processed by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) for approval (24 have been issued certification).
  • We increased the sub rate of pay by 20% to $180 per day if they commit to substituting in the Olympia School District five days a week. This is $30 more than the current daily rate.
  • We have emergency-certified more than 37 paraeducators and have committed to a higher rate of pay ($180) for our wonderful paras who have stepped up to help.
  • We came to mutual agreement with the Olympia Education Association (OEA) to compensate teachers at the higher rate of per diem rate of pay for staff substitute coverage, which is an increase from the previous curriculum rate of pay.

These efforts seem to be paying off as the most recent data we received from the Educational Service District, which is the consortium with whom we work to fill certificated substitute openings, shows that OSD’s current fill rate for certificated substitutes was 76% in November — the highest in our region. That may not sound great but compares well to our neighbors (e.g., Tumwater 66%, Yelm 53%, Tenino 35%, etc.) Classified fill rates are much lower across all districts, in part because we exacerbate the problem when our classified staff fill open certificated positions.

On the bus driver side, we worked with our Teamsters association partners to create a full-time driver trainer position to help expedite training of prospective drivers when they enter the queue. We have also regularly attended Work Source job fairs and posted announcements for bus drivers, and other classified employee positions, on our district website and LinkedIn account.

I share this with you all, not to suggest the problem is solved, but to assure you that we are working hard to address an incredibly difficult challenge that is impacting all of us across the district. We are hopeful that our efforts will continue to pay dividends and the impact will lessen. At the same time we will keep collaborating with our Labor partners to think of creative solutions to address our needs.

Thank you, as always, for your dedication and service to the students and families of Olympia School District.