Wawasee Approves Blackboard, EduStaff, Red Rover Use

Wawasee Community School Corporation Director of Finance and Legal Services James Flecker tells the Wawasee School Board about the benefits of using Blackboard for its website hosting Tuesday night. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.

SYRACUSE – Actions were taken by the Wawasee School Board on Tuesday to improve the school corporation’s website and to help find substitute teachers.

Superintendent Dr. Steve Troyer had asked the Board in January for permission to explore a staffing company for substitute teachers – EduStaff – and an updated absence management system – Red Rover.

“After meetings and discussions with the different companies, we’re recommending EduStaff for our substitute staffing needs. They provide quality education staffing and human resource services for schools through recruiting, face-to-face workshops, extensive customer service, etc.,” Troyer told the Board Tuesday.

He said Wawasee sets the parameters and qualifications that it wants in its substitute teachers and EduStaff recruits, trains, hires and handles all the paperwork, including payroll, taxes and even offers insurance and retirement incentives for substitutes.

“The subs become EduStaff employees. We’ll have our own local recruiter, based out of Mentone. Warsaw and Whitko are two local school corporations that use EduStaff. We’re confident that the switch will help broaden our substitute base,” Troyer said.

EduStaff is headquartered in Michigan and can make Wawasee’s switch to EduStaff happen right after spring break, he said.

On Red Rover, Troyer said it is “an intuitive absence management software interface that handles absence reporting and filling those spots with subs. The software would take the place of our Region 8 system that we currently contract with.”

Red Rover offers a free app for iOS and the Android mobile phones.

“One thing that our subs have asked for is a mobile app or the ability to use their phones for jobs, and that is something that Region 8 does not offer,” Troyer stated. “Red Rover works with EduStaff so they’re very familiar with each other.”

He recommended the Board approve moving forward with EduStaff and Red Rover, which it unanimously did.

Director of Finance and Legal Services James Flecker said Red Rover is the software that EduStaff uses, but Wawasee has to pay for them separately.

Board Vice President Mike Wilson asked, “Do you have empty classrooms often?”

“Yes,” Troyer said. “Especially lately. COVID has hindered our ability to find subs significantly. There will be times in any given building – and ask the principals – four, five, six classes are uncovered. We don’t expect this to wipe that problem completely away, but we’re hoping that by expanding the pool and bringing in somebody whose sole focus is filling sub positions, that will help improve it.”

He said Wawasee is hoping EduStaff will help find them more substitutes locally.

Flecker said they looked into this about five years ago but decided against it because Wawasee didn’t pay as much as the pool it was in so Wawasee’s substitutes could be other school district’s substitutes and that wasn’t good.

“Now their subs can be our subs because they’re going to see the same jobs and we pay more,” Flecker said.

He said ultimately they think it’s a win for the substitutes, a win for the building principals and a win for everyone.

Another action taken by the Board was the approval of Blackboard as the school district’s website host.

Flecker told the Board that Director of Technology Wade Wirebaugh “has been working tirelessly to find companies to host our website.”

Flecker reminded the Board that Wawasee went through a website revision a few years ago because “it was really rough” before that.

“We got it cleaned up quite a bit. It’s aesthetically a lot more pleasing than what it was, but the host that we’re using has a 100-page limit,” he said. “So what that means is, every time you go to a new page, or you click on the website, that’s a new page. You can only have a 100. That sounds like a lot until you have five school buildings, everyone has clubs – it becomes a problem.”

Flecker said Wawasee is “at the maximum amount” and Wirebaugh investigated “a ton of companies” before recommending Blackboard.

He said the recommendation before the Board was for three years.

“It may seem like a lot of money at first, however, Mr. Wirebaugh has almost completely redesigned and uploaded our website into a new platform and that has driven the cost down for our upfront Blackboard fee quite a bit because the other quotes we were getting were in the $20,000 range. So that under $10,000 for three years of service with a platform he’s already worked with, it’s really a phenomenal deal,” Flecker said.

He said it also keeps Wawasee compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and other regulations.

Wilson asked if there were any advertising possibilities with the website.

“There’s a ton of opportunity,” Flecker responded.

The Board unanimously approved Blackboard as the website host.