Houston Schools is making a move to improve how it implements substitute teachers.

At its monthly meeting earlier this month, the school board voted to enter into a one-year contract with Springfield-based Penmac Staffing Services, Inc., which manages substitute teachers for several southwest Missouri school districts.

Dr. Allen Moss, superintendent of Houston Schools, said finding substitutes has been an ongoing issue in the district.

“We’ve had a continual problem of filling classes when teachers are gone,” Moss said. “We might have eight or 10 openings and only have six or seven people available to sub that day. We’ve had to fill in at times with paraprofessionals and aides or have teachers during their planning periods cover spots.”

Partnering with Penmac offers districts multiple benefits. Substitutes become employees of Penmac and are screened, trained and assigned by the organization. Local districts no longer have to track things such as unemployment and workman’s compensation.

Another advantage, Moss said, is being able to use retired teachers more frequently. Under the current format, retirees are restricted to 550 hours.

“We have a few retired teachers who would sub more but can’t because of the restriction,” Moss said. “A retired teacher can work for Penmac and sub as much as they would like. This would be an opportunity for us to get experienced substitutes in the classrooms.”

Mark Overstreet, a former Houston High School head football coach and teacher, made the Penmac presentation to the Houston school board. Overstreet supervises training with the organization and observes substitutes.

“Their goal is to get substitutes who are teaching, not just coming in and watching the class,” Moss said.

Moss said local substitutes will continue to receive priority in the district and use the same computer program to view openings. They will be paid weekly instead of monthly by the school district. Houston will pay a fee per substitute used — around 33 percent of the daily flat rate — to Penmac.

Penmac, which has an office in Houston, provides services to Clever, Laclede County, Lebanon, Logan-Rogersville, Neosho, Republic, Waynesville and other districts.

The agreement with Penmac is still considered temporary following an objection from patron Jim Cavanaugh at the conclusion of the meeting. Moss said Cavanaugh advised the district it should have received bids for substitute services from more than one group.

Moss said two additional companies will provide costs to Houston for consideration.

Moss said a final decision will likely be made at the next board meeting.

“We feel like it is an urgent, almost emergency need to get something going to help us fill these spots,” he said.

Also at the meeting, school board members:

•Accepted an audit for the 2015-’16 school year as presented by Mike Caplett.

• Approved a student liaison policy for the board. Jennifer Scheets was appointed as the board member to the leadership committee. The policy was adopted from Ava.

• Heard from Shauna Wells about the formation of a PTO for the elementary school.

• Moved Lindsay Starr from paraprofessional to elementary teacher until second-grade teacher Elizabeth Williams receives her certification from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Starr will be paid a daily gross rate of $155.56.

• Considered Charles Marks as a volunteer assistant coach with the high school girls’ basketball team. A motion died without a second.

• Gave Danny Backus the latitude to employ a night custodian, pending a background check, before the December board meeting. Christina Smith was terminated as night custodian on Oct. 24. No resignation was submitted.

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