Local districts scramble after substitute teacher service closes unexpectedly

By ZEINAB NAJM
Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN — The abrupt closing of Professional Educational Services Group left local school districts scrambling to find substitute teachers after the company announced Oct. 22 it was immediately closing.

A letter was sent via email Monday addressing only Michigan employees.

“You will no longer be able to obtain substitute teaching jobs or any other work from Professional Educational Services Group going forward,” PESG President and CEO Henry Bledsoe wrote. “We believe the shut-down will be permanent. Under the circumstances, therefore, we strongly encourage you to contact your local school districts to sign up for and obtain work directly from the districts.”

News of the closing began to spread quickly to Dearborn Public Schools which had to make changes on the fly. The Crestwood and Dearborn Heights District No. 7 school districts had made the switch for substitutes from PESG to EDUStaff prior to the current school year.

DPS Supt. Glenn Maleyko said he first knew about the closing at 5 p.m. Oct. 22 and scheduled a conference call to develop a short-term plan. The district canceled professional development rest of the week as a result of the closing.
On Oct. 23, about 120 former PESG employees responded to the district’s Administrative Service Center, 18700 Audette where they were processed and signed into temporary contracts.

They were then sent to their assignments throughout the district, according to a letter posted on Maleyko’s blog.
“In the days ahead the District will continue to place substitutes in buildings,” he wrote. “This is not new to Dearborn as many years ago all substitutes were filled in-house. We are confident that our Human Resource Department, working with building principals and staff, will do an excellent job of placing substitutes in schools. Please remember, a majority of the substitutes that will be in the schools are the same people who were working for PESG.”

Maleyko also praised the district’s executive directors, directors, principals, teachers, school secretaries, coordinators, secretaries, parents and other staff members who helped process substitutes and ensure schools were ready for students to learn.

“Of course, every plan needs a leader and our plan would have never worked if not for the professionalism and leadership exemplified by Executive Director of Staff and Students Services Ms. Maysam Alie-Bazzi, Ms. Ruth Bankhead Director of Human Resources, and the entire staff in the Human Resources Department,” Maleyko wrote. “This group of professionals did an outstanding job to make the process in the morning run smoothly and ensure classrooms will be covered in the days ahead.”

Next, the district will look into a long-term plan and decide if it will contract with another outside provider or do it internally. Maleyko said DPS, among other Michigan school districts, is exploring legal action against PESG for breach of contract.

“The District will evaluate all available options including working with Wayne RESA (Intermediate School District), to develop a plan that will meet the long term financial needs of the district and the educational needs of our students,” he wrote.

As for PESG, its closing impacted the 1,500 and 2,000 substitute school teachers throughout the state along with the 15,000 registered individuals this year at 110 to 120 districts, according to Bledsoe’s email.
“These drastic measures are unavoidable and include many circumstances outside of our immediate control,” Bledsoe said. “Nevertheless, you have my personal commitment that we will wind down operations in an orderly manner and take all reasonable efforts to minimize the inevitable disruptions on you, your families, the various school districts, and ultimately the students we served in our communities.’

According to the email, PESG had been seeking capital to keep its operations going and were in negotiations with a competitor to sell the business, but when the negotiations broke down over the weekend due to unforeseen developments it was forced to shut down.

Employees who were not paid for days worked leading up to the closure will receive their last paycheck from PESG or the district at the next regularly scheduled pay cycle.

“If you have made employee contributions into the Professional Educational Services Group 401(k) plan, then please be advised that your funds are held in trust and safe from Professional Educational Services Group’s creditors,” Bledsoe wrote. “We encourage you to speak with a financial advisor or tax professional to consider your options including but not limited to rolling over your 401(k) account balance into another qualified plan or setting up an individual retirement account (IRA). A copy of your Summary Plan Description (SPD) can be obtained from Professional Educational Services Group’s third party administrator Lincoln Financial.”

If any former PESG employees needs to contact the company, they may call the employee call line at 616-891-0509. Calls will be triaged and responded to as soon as possible, according to the email.

“We founded this company 13 years ago to help provide good jobs in the community while helping our many school districts meet critical needs for our young people in real time,” Bledsoe said in her email. “This is a rather unceremonious end to that effort. But, while we wish things could have turned out better, before we sign off, we wish to personally thank you for your service to Professional Educational Services Group and the dedication you showed to the many students you helped serve throughout the State of Michigan.”

(Zeinab Najm can be reached at zeinabnajm92@gmail.com.)

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