Item Coversheet

Action Item - 58.

Title: Contracts with Various Vendors for Substitute Related Services ($6,341,000)

Board of Education Meeting Date:

Action under consideration

 The Administration recommends that the Board of Education authorize The School District of Philadelphia, through the Superintendent or his designee, to execute and perform a contract, subject to funding, as follows: 


The Stepping Stones Group, LLC


Progressus Therapy, LLC

Invo Healthcare

AMN Allied Services, LLC

Birch Agency, Inc

American Medical Staffing, Inc.

Attain Therapy LLC

General Healthcare Resources

Orange Tree Staffing, LLC

SHC Services, Inc.


To provide qualified substitute related service therapists   

 Start date: 7/1/2023

 End date: 6/30/2024
 Compensation not to exceed: $6,341,000 
 Separate Compensation by Vendor:
All entities will be paid out of the aggregate amount not to exceed $6,341,000
All District Schools and Alternative Schools

 Renewal Options:  Yes

 Number of Options: 3

 Duration of each option to extend: Years: 1  Months:
 Maximum compensation authorized per option period:   Each option at fixed amount not to exceed $6,341,000 or 110% of first or preceding year's contract


 Why is the contract needed?

Over the past five years the School District of Philadelphia (District) has experienced therapeutic related services staffing vacancies and has not been able to cover the related services therapeutic needs of its students with disabilities without retaining private contractors. Current contracts for substitute related services therapists are coming to an end on June 30, 2023, and it is projected that contracted services will again be needed to meet the therapeutic needs of many students this upcoming school year. 

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandates that school districts provide related services to all eligible students with disabilities when these services are required by their Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 Plan. Related services include, but are not limited to, speech, language, hearing, vision, occupational, physical, orientation and mobility, Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy, and psychoeducational evaluations. Related services must be provided by certified and licensed therapists or professionals. When school districts, due to a limited supply of qualified professionals, are unable to recruit their own certified therapeutic staff to cover all required student related services needs, they must contract with outside agencies to ensure that all required therapeutic services are delivered on schedule to students. 

It is estimated that 12,000 students, attending 217 District schools, will require speech, hearing, vision, occupational, physical, vision, and other therapeutic and related services during the 2023-2024 school year. At a minimum, the District will require 218 therapists to cover the legally mandated therapeutic needs of these students. This action item requests authorization to contract for up to sixty-six (66) full-time equivalent therapists if needed to cover possible unfilled staffing requirements and other vacancies due to sabbaticals, maternity leaves, sick leaves, retirements, resignations, and terminations. Sixty-six full-time equivalent therapists would annually provide approximately 90,585 hours of services. At an average cost of $70.00 per hour, the District’s projected cost is $6,341,000.

The number and type of therapists that each contractor can recruit each year are not constant and typically changes. Fluctuation in the number and type of therapists that contractors can recruit each year is an unpredictable variable in the industry that can be subject to unexpected changes and wide variations from year to year. By not assigning specific contract amounts and vacancy-fill requirements to contractors in this action item, the District will have the ability and flexibility to respond effectively to this uncontrollable variable, by contracting with the selected vendors based upon need and the number of therapists that each vendor can actually recruit throughout the school year. 

The District has made and will continue to make robust efforts to recruit and employ full-time therapists to cover all projected student needs for the upcoming school year. Recruiting certified and experienced related services therapists to work with this vulnerable population in a large urban district is challenging due to the low supply of qualified candidates, and high annual turnover and resignation rates. In response to this situation, in addition to a thorough, expansive recruitment and marketing effort aimed at drawing certified and qualified related services therapists to the District, the District needs to be ready and prepared to utilize contracted therapeutic staff to cover possible vacancies.

How is this work connected to the District’s plan to achieve Goals & Guardrails? 

The provision of required therapeutic services will allow students to navigate and immerse themselves in a sensory environment within their school and community while communicating needs and taking advantage of an inclusive and equitable education. Therapeutic services enable students to fully access the curriculum and make appropriate progress in math and reading. The provision of therapeutic related services to students with disabilities who require this support to make progress academically will ensure that they have the opportunity to reach the Board of Education Goals of performing at or above grade level in reading and math, achieve proficient levels in annual state assessments, and graduate ready for college and career.

How will the success of this contract be measured? 

The contractors have internal quality control assessments to ensure that their contracted therapists and professionals are fully licensed and credentialed, maintain District-assigned student case-loads, and  provide quality student therapeutic services. This information is shared with District Administrators to confirm program compliance. Administrators from the Office of Special Education & Diverse Learners and District Lead Therapists perform observations of the contracted therapist’s delivery of student related services, work with individual therapists to optimize delivery of student services, monitor student therapeutic progress, and review relevant records to guarantee the provision of quality services.   

When applicable, is this an evidence-based strategyIf so, what evidence exists to support this approach?

District educational teams evaluate all students receiving contracted therapeutic related services to determine the impact of these services and student’s ongoing therapeutic progress and needs.

When applicable, was a larger community of District community members and/or stakeholders involved in this selection process? If so, what groups and how?

 Consistent with the District’s competitive procurement process, the selection of these contractors included a committee of District staff with relevant special education, instructional, programmatic, and fiscal expertise who reviewed and evaluated contractors’ RFQ responses.

 Funding Source(s): 
FY23-24  Operating

 Office Originating Request: Academic Support