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For Lincoln Public Schools, Easing The Hassle of Finding Subs

The Nebraska district’s use of SubFinder, by CRS Advanced Technology, saves time and money.

Before Lincoln Public Schools acquired SubFinder? absence management and substitute placement software from CRS Advanced Technology eight years ago, the district employed three people each morning and two each evening to make phone calls to find substitutes to fill the next day’s schedule. The low-tech system was responsible for covering absences for 5,300 employees—teachers, teacher’s aides, secretaries, cafeteria workers, even interpreters and computer technicians—and working with more than 1,000 substitutes. It was a tedious task that took hours, and often not every absence or open job could be filled.

Nebraska’s second-largest school district, with more than 34,000 students in 64 schools, needed a better way. In stepped CRS. The company has provided absence management and other personnel programs to K12 districts nationwide for two decades. But Lincoln Public Schools became the first school system in the country to make districtwide use of SubFinder’s Internet component, enabling employees and substitutes to access the program via the web.

Eight years later, Lincoln employs just two people to operate the SubFinder system, and SubFinder Operations Technician Darbi Umholtz handles a bevy of other duties. “I’m checking in on the system every half-hour or so and I’m helping secretaries throughout the morning,” Umholtz says, “but I’m able to work on other things as well.”

"SubFinder has streamlined Lincoln's entire absence management process. Employees can record absences 24 hours a day by phone or the Internet."

Umholtz says SubFinder has streamlined Lincoln’s entire absence management process. Employees can record absences 24 hours a day by phone or the Internet. Using a process known as qualitative substitute analysis, SubFinder immediately begins searching for the most qualified substitutes, as determined by the district, and calls them to fill vacancies.

From 5:30 a.m. to noon and from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. each day, SubFinder sends out automated telephone messages to potential subs, listing the available opening, school, and starting time. The job is also posted online. Umholtz says Lincoln’s SubFinder system gives priority to certified teachers with endorsements in the appropriate field of study.

SubFinder also provides districts with hundreds of personnel management reports and tracks worker’s compensation and unemployment claims. With SubFinder, Umholtz can track the number of employees who have missed work due to illness or search for substitute teachers who speak Spanish. Five times each morning SubFinder sends absence reports via e-mail to all Lincoln schools.

“I don’t have to do anything to send them out. I just have to make sure the program is up,” Umholtz says. “They can be sent to as many as five people per school. They have that information at their fingertips throughout the morning.”

Umholtz says the biggest benefit from SubFinder is the increased rate at which Lincoln fills its teacher absences. Prior to using SubFinder, it was estimated that the district filled about 90 percent of its absences. With SubFinder, that figure has increased to 96 percent. Filling the absences saves money, Umholtz says, because it costs more to have full-time teachers cover for absent colleagues.

Meanwhile, Umholtz is free to perform her other duties, such as placing more than 3,000 student teachers in Lincoln’s schools each year and coordinating the district’s tuition credit program. Still, she confides that overseeing the SubFinder system remains the favorite part of her job.

“There’s problem-solving every day helping people figure things out,” she says. “I work with a variety of people. I work with principals. I work with nutrition specialists. The people at CRS are really great to work with too. We’ve worked with them pretty closely for eight years.”

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