School Board addresses backlog of teacher certifications

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, September 20, 2023

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LAPLACE — The St. John the Baptist Parish School Board is taking steps to address a backlog of unprocessed teacher certifications that has in some cases caused school employees to lose out on money.

During last week’s meeting in Reserve, the St. John the Baptist Parish School Board approved Interim Superintendent Kendria Spears’ request to enter into a professional services contract with Chief of Minds to assist the HR department with processing the backlog of certifications.

The intent is to bring in two individuals to assist the HR department — which currently consists of the interim director and one clerk — for four hours per day, four days per week. The cost is expected to average $4,480 per month for each employee.

Spears noted that there is “an enormous amount of work” within the multi-faceted HR Department, which handles not only certifications but also insurance, staffing, and other matters essential to daily operations.

“The vision of this plan is to set up work stations in Central Office, have teachers whose certifications have expired come in, and have certifications processed in a timely manner and uploaded through LDOE’s online portal,” Spears said.

School Board member Debbie Schum wanted the public to be aware that the interim director and clerk did not cause the backlog to occur.

“They are trying to fix the problem because it occurred before they got here,” Schum said.

Derron Cook of the St. John Association of Educators said the backlog has been an issue for months, if not years.

“We have been having a backlog prior to Ms. Spears, I would say probably even prior to (former superintendent) Ms. Johnson,” Cook said. “We have been bombarded with employees requesting renewals. Whatever our solution is, we should work quickly to resolve these issues for our employees because they are the ones losing out. In some cases, they are losing out on money because time is lapsing and they are having to pay again.”

Board member Jennifer Frizzell agreed that processing the backlog is a priority but was uncomfortable not having access to the total cost and timeline of the contract.

Board member Ali Burl III also shared his concerns.

“There has to be someone in house in this district who is capable of doing this work until we catch up,” he said.

Board member Nia Mitchell-Williams said the backlog is much more urgent than it appears.
“Their certifications are showing up as expired because they paid their money and the paperwork is sitting somewhere, it wasn’t processed, so now they have to pay their money again. I think this is a 9-1-1, because at this point people are threatening to leave because their certification is their livelihood, and it’s not being processed,” Mitchell-Williams said.

She added that the backlog has repercussions related to staffing and employee salaries.

“You’re talking new hires – people have a backlog to fill positions, and they can’t start because their paperwork isn’t processed…Principals are ready to hire people, and kids don’t have teachers in their classrooms because it’s not processed through HR,” she said. “There are teachers still getting non-certified pay because we haven’t processed their certification. Now we’re talking employees’ money. It’s bigger than just paperwork.”

Spears estimated approximately 80 teachers in the district have certifications that are expired or approaching expiration.

The contract approval came with the caveat of required weekly reports on productivity so Board members can gauge how long it takes to process certifications.