ATHENS — For the past few years, the Athens Area School District has been counting on an outside company to provide substitute teachers — but that partnership could be coming to an end without a “drastic improvement,” according to superintendent Craig Stage.

Stage told the school board on Tuesday that the district has been facing a shortage of substitutes and that ESS — formerly known as Source 4 Teachers — has fallen down on the job.

“The last couple years we’ve had a lot of difficulty with them staffing out substitutes,” said Stage. “We are trying to provide a high-quality learning opportunity for all of our students, and it’s difficult to do when we have numerous daily substitutes that are not being filled.”

The problem has been constant, according to Stage.

“It’s a consistent and persistent problem. It’s pervasive,” Stage said. “It’s starting to affect every aspect of what we’re trying to do. We can’t professionally develop our staff. We can’t provide adequate learning opportunities for our students, and our existing staff is becoming overburden by filling in the gaps and I commend them for doing so.”

Athens High School Principal Corey Mosher confirmed the problems that Stage described to the school board.

“Staffing really affects us at the high school. It affects us at every building, but specifically, we’ve had several trainings where I’ve had to cancel the training because we can’t staff their positions to allow them to go and get the professional development that they need, look at the curriculum, revise the curriculum, things that are really pressing,” Mosher said. “We are really looking at our students’ performance and growth and that really takes away from our ability to do that.”

Stage said he has told ESS what the school district needs, but he hasn’t seen any improvements.

“We’ve asked (ESS) to onboard people more quickly. We’ve asked them to address issues of recruiting, and we’re basically not being serviced, in my opinion, adequately or appropriately by them,” said Stage.

If things don’t change in the near future, the school district will need to move in a different direction, according to Stage.

“If we don’t see a drastic improvement and an intentional effort to improve, then we have to look at all of our alternatives — whether that be another staffing company or partnering with the (BLaST IU), there are other things that we can do and we have to start being open to exploring those,” Stage said.

Pat McDonald can be reached at (570) 888-9643 ext. 228 or Follow Managing Editor Pat McDonald on Twitter @PatMcDonaldMT.

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