KellyEducation helps Darlington County School District stay focused on delivering the best education


As with many school districts, the process of recruiting, hiring and managing substitute teachers and paraprofessionals had become an overwhelming challenge for the Darlington County School District (DCSD), a South Carolina school system that serves more than 9,500 students in 20 schools. By 2018, district leaders were looking for a solution that would ease the burden and reduce costs, paperwork and time spent.

“Finding and managing substitute teachers and paras was very time-consuming for our staff, and especially for our principals,” says Dr. B. Jane Hursey, Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources at the district. “We had staff spending hours every day trying to find substitutes. It was a particularly heavy burden for our principals, because the amount of time they were spending finding and managing substitute teachers was taking them away from being instructional leaders in their schools, working with teachers and students,” Hursey says.

“We needed to find a better process. We had learned some neighboring districts were using—and highly recommended—Kelly Education for these staffing needs. We considered several options, and after seeing their presentation about what they offer and going through a rigorous interview process, we decided to begin a partnership with Kelly Education in 2018.”

Taking on the role of problem-solver
Hursey says that the decision to use Kelly to supply substitutes made sense on many levels. “I was admittedly skeptical at first. But when we added up all the costs we were incurring when it came to finding and hiring substitutes, and the time spent by various departments on management and bookkeeping, it was clearly more cost effective to contract with Kelly.”

Right from the start, Hursey says she was impressed by Kelly’s approach to implementation. “They were highly organized, they listened to our needs and were extremely responsive. So many vendors come into a district and are focused on making their product ‘happen’ to you,” Hursey says. “Kelly was totally different, they worked with us, listened to our needs, and took on the role of problem-solver. They were very
knowledgeable and put everyone at ease.”

Hursey says the training at the outset of the partnership was highly effective. “They set up training sessions about the skills, knowledge and policies that our district requires, and they were able to retrain many of our existing substitutes, who had become Kelly employees. It was very organized.”

Expanding the partnership to paraprofessionals
With Kelly Education handling the substitute process, the positive impacts in the district were evident almost immediately, and the substitute teacher fill rate in DCSD climbed to about 98 percent. Kelly managed nearly every detail when it came to substitutes, from recruiting, training
and onboarding to payroll and tracking attendance.

“With Kelly handling everything, our payroll department was no longer spending large amounts of time processing the pay for hundreds of substitutes, and it lifted a huge burden of time and paperwork off of the district,” Hursey says.

“But perhaps the biggest impact was on our principals. Without having to spend hours trying to find substitutes, our principals could now spend their time supervising teachers, supervising instruction, visiting classrooms, or walking the halls. They could be much more focused on their teachers and students. It made a dramatic improvement in so many areas.

Hursey says it was an easy decision to quickly expand the partnership. “We were so pleased with the results, that we soon had Kelly also supply other positions such as custodians, maintenance personnel, secretaries, and paraprofessionals, particularly special education shadow teachers.” Now, Kelly handles both their full-time and substitute paraprofessionals.

The special education paraprofessionals have been particularly helpful to the district. “Being in a rural area, it can be challenging for us to recruit and hire qualified employees,” Hursey says. “Kelly has access to a broad pool of candidates, and they work hard to ensure that they provide paraprofessionals that are a good fit for the needs of each special needs student. Kelly also does extensive training, so these paraeducators are well-equipped from day one.”

“In fact, some of the paraprofessionals Kelly has provided have been so effective, that we ended up hiring them as full-time employees of the district to continue working with the same students, which provided the stability that many special education students need,” Hursey says. “That was an unexpected benefit of our partnership. Kelly essentially served as arecruiter for us and found some terrific people.”

Helping to navigate COVID-19
During the COVID-19 crisis, Hursey says she developed a new level of appreciation for the partnership. “Kelly is always thinking ahead, and we saw that come even more into focus during the pandemic. Our teachers have been highly committed, doing amazing work in the most challenging circumstances that any of us have ever seen,” she says. “Kelly has been alongside us throughout, anticipating our needs and ensuring we still
have substitute teachers when we need them.”

Piloting a new model
Looking for even more ways to utilize Kelly Education to improve services in the district, for the 2020-2021 school year DCSD has been piloting a “building substitute” model in three schools. In this model, two Kelly employees are assigned to each school, and work there every day. They could serve as a substitute teacher that day, or if no substitute is needed, they can serve as a teacher’s assistant or in other roles aroundthe school.

“That provides peace of mind, because it ensures that we always have a substitute teacher ready for that school, and we don’t have to worry about being able to fill a position on short notice,” says Chuck Miller, director of personnel for the district. “It’s also beneficial because those employees are well known to that school community and very familiar with the teachers and students.” Miller says that the pilot program has been highly successful and exceeded their expectations. “I was surprised at how effective the building substitute model has been. As a result, we’re planning on expanding the model to have permanent staff from Kelly Education in every school in the district next year. Everyone has been extremely pleased.”

Reflecting on a successful partnership
Overall, Hursey and Miller say the partnership with Kelly Education has benefited the district even beyond what they initially expected. “The partnership has been outstanding, and resolved a lot of issues for us,” Miller says. “It has been worth every penny,” Hursey says of the partnership. “The value we have received far exceeds our expenditure for their services, and ultimately, the partnership has enabled us to improve the quality of
services we provide to our students, and that’s what is most important.”