Staffing is one of the most significant responsibilities on a school administrator’s plate. That task gets more challenging if you are tasked with filling high-demand, low-supply specialist positions like speech-language pathologists or school psychologists. If that’s part of your job description, chances are pretty good that you’ve had conversations with at least one contracting company (like us!). But how do you compare company to company? How do you get to the root of what they’re offering? And most importantly, how do you ensure that you’re making the best choice for your students?
So glad you asked! Here are five questions that we think all special education administrators should ask contracting companies before signing on the dotted line (and our answers to them, too!).
How do you bill us for services? Do you charge a flat rate fee or bill per service?
This one is important because not all contracting companies bill in the same way, and your budget depends on knowing exactly how much you’ll be charged each month. Some contracting companies charge different rates for different services provided — direct service, consult time, evaluations, paperwork, and so on. Companies may also charge overtime fees, technology fees, administrative fees, and travel fees. As with any contract you sign, reading the fine print is essential!
How we answer this question: at The Hello Foundation, we charge a flat hourly rate for our services, dependent on the type of specialist hired. We expect our specialists to become a part of your team and manage their workload just like any other member of your district staff would be expected to do. We don’t add on any fees, ever.
Do you have a buyout fee if we want to hire your contractor as an employee?
Imagine that you bring a contractor to your district, it’s a perfect match, and they would like to become a district employee. It happens more often than you might think, so it’s crucial to know whether that will be an option for you and the specialist. Most contracting companies charge a buyout fee if you decide to try and hire one of their contractors as your district employee. These fees can range from $10K-$30k!
How we answer this question: At Hello, we have zero buyout fees if you want to hire one of our SLPs, SLPAs, school psychologists, or occupational therapists to work in your district. We ask that our staff members complete their original contract through Hello and the district. After that contract is complete, they are free to join your district as an employee. We lose some staff members each year this way, but we’re ok with it because we want what’s best for all parties involved!
What kind of service models do you provide?
Your district is unique, as are all your buildings and student population. Many contracting companies only offer 1 type of service model for their clients. They may only provide 100% teletherapy or only 100% in-person services. This question is vital because your district will need to adopt the company’s service model you’re working with, and you want to do all you can to ensure that it meets your students’ needs.
How we answer this question: We offer three types of service model options. Our most popular is our Hello There Hybrid Model (which we have been perfecting for over 15 years!). With this model, our specialists travel on-site one week per month and then work the other three weeks each month off-site via teletherapy. We also offer 100% teletherapy (no travel) and 100% on-site options depending on location and needs.
What is your staff retention rate?
This question might seem odd, but when you ask it, you will get an idea of what you can expect in both long- and short-term consistency. Many contracting companies only hire 1099 contractors (not employees), don’t pay their clinicians very well, and have a high turnover rate. Asking this question will allow you to understand how clinicians feel about working for the company and what you might expect if you want to keep a contractor all year or for multiple years.
How we answer this question: Here at Hello, we are proud to say that we have a 90% staff retention rate. Most of our specialists are our employees, and we offer full benefits and a competitive wage. Over 80% of our school districts renew each year, and many of our specialists return to their districts year after year.
Who do I call if I have a question or need help?
Life in the schools means expecting the unexpected. Even if everything is going beautifully with your contractor, there are many other reasons you might want to talk to someone at the company (procedures, billing, renewals, extensions, etc.). Nobody wants to wait to speak to someone when they have a question or a time-sensitive issue! There is nothing worse than wanting to just talk to a human and being stuck in a computerized system or getting automated responses to emails.
How we answer this question: You call us! The exact same people you’ve been talking to all along. Our dedicated, hard-working Leadership Team is just a phone call, zoom call, or email away. We don’t have an automated system, and all of our phone calls and emails are answered by an actual human. We don’t disappear or pass the buck after the contract is signed, so you can also expect us to check in with you throughout the year to ensure that we’re meeting your needs. After all, you are our partner, and we love hearing from and collaborating with you.
There are, of course, a million other questions you could and should ask before deciding on staffing for your district. But asking these basics of every sales rep you speak to will allow you to compare companies more efficiently. It will also pull back the curtain a bit on what you can expect if you decide to work with them and help you make a more informed decision. And if you’d like more information about how we answered the questions or anything else we do, get in touch. We’d love to hear from you. Good luck with the staffing challenges ahead!