Shawnee Mission approves $3.5M in outside contracts to fill dozens of staff vacancies ahead of new school year

Shawnee Mission Center for Academic Achievement

Shawnee Mission school board approved five contracts to help fill staffing shortages ahead of the 2021-22 school year, including nearly $1,000,000 for custodial staffing services to fill more than 40 vacancies. File photo.

The Shawnee Mission board of education on Monday unanimously approved four separate contracts with outside agencies costing more than a combined $3.5 million in an effort to address staffing shortages heading into another school year that will begin under the cloud of COVID-19.

Students start returning to classes Thursday, Aug. 12, and the district continues to struggle to fully staff both certified teaching positions, especially in special education, and classified positions, most notably among custodial workers.

District officials confirmed Monday night that they are planning to start the 2021-22 year on Thursday with 20 teacher vacancies.

Superintendent Michelle Hubbard said staffing shortages aren’t something unique to SMSD.

“The shortage in employees that we are facing right now is not only a Shawnee Mission problem or a Johnson County problem — it’s a national problem,” Hubbard told the board.

Shawnee Mission held a job fair on Aug. 4 for non-teaching positions, and Hubbard said there were about 75 attendees. Those interested in a potential position can learn more online here.

Below is a look at the details of each contract approved by the board Monday aimed at filling open positions. In total, the contracts come to more than $3.5 million.

  • A contract with Utah-based Supplemental Healthcare will provide speech language pathology services for up to $60,000 and occupational and physical therapy services for up to $85,000. This contract also allows for $206,000 worth of certified staff vacancy coverages, according to board documents. It will be paid for out of the operational funds special education account.
  • A contract with California-based Therapy Travelers for up to $202,800 to pay for hiring two teachers, as well as up to $176,000 for registered behavior technicians. It will also be paid for out of the special education operating funds.
  • A contract with Maryland-based Maxim Healthcare Services for $420,000 for nursing coverage, $315,000 for certified teacher coverage, $881,000 for paraprofessional coverage and $255,000 for registered behavior technician coverage. It will also be paid for out of the special education operating fund.
  • A contract renewal with ATS Facility Services for nearly $1 million to pay for custodial staff — an area with more than 40 vacancies, according to board documents. This contract allows the board to review it after one year, and allows up to a three-year renewal. It will be paid for out of general funds.

As part of the discussion about staffing, SM South area board member Jessica Hembree asked if the district is paying its classified employees — that is, non-teachers, like custodial staff and classroom aides — enough to be competitive.

Michael Schumacher, SMSD’s associate superintendent of human resources, said the district conducts annual analyses to ensure its wages are consistent with other districts.

Additionally, Schumacher said the board recently approved a raise for para-educators and aides.

“Would we like to do more? Of course, but we are consistent amongst the market,” Schumacher said.