Hiring for Schools: The Chicken and Egg of Staffing Additional Contracts

Jun 06, 2024

As a business owner, I frequently encounter a common question when it comes to staffing additional Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs), Occupational Therapists (OTs), and Physical Therapists (PTs) for school contracts: should you secure the contract first or hire the provider first?

The answer isn't one-size-fits-all. Instead, it hinges on aligning your actions with your business mission and goals. Let's explore the pros and cons of each approach, along with a hybrid strategy that I utilize most often.

Contract THEN Hire


  1. Provider Retention: When you secure the contract first, providers are more likely to stay because they know the specifics of their role.
  2. Intentional Provider Recruitment: With this workflow, you can hire or subcontract providers who have experience with the selected populations and age ranges, ensuring a better fit for both the school and your provider.  
  3. Profit Margin Understanding: Knowing the exact hourly rate the school will pay allows you to hire within your profit margins.  If you hire providers prior to obtaining a specific contract, you run the risk of narrowing profit margins to secure a contract.
  4. Maintain Staffing Control: Keeping the ball in your court and hiring for districts after signature helps maintain boundaries between your providers and the school, reinforcing your role as the middleman. 


  1. School's Preference: Schools might want to meet and "interview" your provider during the contract process. You'll need to manage this expectation and advocate for why staffing happens post-contract.
  2. Risk of No Provider at School Start: If you hire after signature, you run the risk of a lapse in services especially if the school signs after the school year begins. This can be mitigated by having a PRN provider (if allowed in your state) or staffing the contract yourself temporarily. Transparency with the school about potential start delays is crucial.

Hiring THEN Contracting


  1. Sales Support: A provider can assist in the sales process, helping to secure contracts, especially with schools that typically use large staffing agencies.
  2. Provider Autonomy: Providers meet and know the school beforehand, which allows them to see who they will be working with should the school sign.
  3. Adherence to School Start Date: Reduced risk of not having a provider at the time of the desired start date.


  1. Risk of Mismatched Expectations: There's a higher chance that either the school or the provider may not be satisfied with each other, increasing the risk of losing the contract or the provider.
  2. Contractual Ambiguity: Without careful management, both parties might feel that a middleman is unnecessary and you may lose the contract. It’s advisable to have non-solicitation terms and stay actively involved should you take this workflow approach.
  3. Provider Without a Contract: If the contract doesn't materialize, you may end up with a provider without work. This approach is risky, especially if you pay salaries (which I don't recommend for a beginning staffing company), as it could mean paying a provider with no incoming revenue OR having a provider relying on you for income without any.

Hybrid Approach

Another approach that I primarily utilize, which combines elements of both strategies, is a hybrid approach. Here's how that  looks:

  1. Recruitment in Anticipation: Start recruiting when it seems likely that the school will sign the contract. For me, that's when the school asks to review the contract and is already aware of the rate.
  2. Intent to Hire: Use an offer letter with terms that the provider agrees to, but wait to finalize the agreement until the school signs. This letter can include non-solicit terms to ensure smooth introductions without risking your business relationships. (See a draft in my School Staffing Packet)
  3. Provider Bios: Instead of interviews, send detailed bios of your providers to the schools. Offer to host "meet and greets" but avoid terminology that sounds like hiring terminology, e.g. "the school interviewing the provider".
  4. PRN and Growth Potential: With your providers, see if they're open to starting PRN terminology with room to grow, so they don't leave a role before the school officially signed. In addition, negotiate 30-day (or longer) staffing timelines with schools to safeguard your business interests and give you ample time to bring on a provider after contract signature.

Regardless of the approach, communication is key. By balancing the needs and expectations of both schools and providers, you can ensure a smoother and more successful staffing process.

For those looking to delve deeper and start their journey staffing school districts, my School Staffing Packet offers comprehensive resources, including sample agreements, offer letters, and emails. Check it out here: School Staffing Packet.

❤️ Elise