Recovering from record number of teacher dropouts, Austin ISD offers retention ideas

AUSTIN (KXAN) — In a couple of weeks, the Austin Independent School District Board of Regents is due to vote on some changes that the district hopes will allow teachers to be hired and retained.

“It’s not just about remuneration, it’s about making the job doable,” said Brandi Hosack, AISD director of human resources, at a Thursday night board meeting discussing some of the changes.

As of Friday, the AISD website lists 238 teaching vacancies to be filled. The district is trying to recover from a record high number of teachers who quit or retired last school year.

The first change will add working hours and tutoring to the list of teachers’ roles that go beyond their mandatory day-to-day duties. These, along with on-campus meetings and planning, will be limited to four hours per month.

“What teachers have to deal with right now is very different and therefore we have to compensate our teachers beyond measure… if we are going to make such demands. So we’re trying to limit it,” Hosak explained.

The next change will be a moratorium on parent-teacher conferences to give teachers time to prepare.

If approved, the system of substitute teachers will also change.

Primary school teachers will be paid more if the district cannot find a replacement teacher and they have to take additional students into their classes.

“We have five students in Class A, five in Class B, five in Class C. This is an additional responsibility and an additional task for this teacher, and he can fairly compensate for this,” Hosak said.

Board members asked how the district would track hours and compensate teachers fairly.

“One area where we’re really struggling is getting people to…compensate in a timely manner,” trustee Candace Hunter said. “[It] It once took me 15 months to earn $300.”

Trustee Andrew Gonzalez agreed.

“While I understand that there are ways to solve this problem and return the money, I would like this to be taken care of at the initial stage, so that there is a really clear and simple system,” he said.

Hunter suggested a way for teachers to keep track of the clock themselves.

“I think maybe it will be helpful that at the end of the day they can say, ‘I got everything back when I invested,’” she said.

Another change will remove librarians from the list of deputies so they can focus on their own duties.

“It’s very important for our campuses to have fully functioning libraries, and the librarian has to be the librarian,” Hosak said. “And when you open the door to using a librarian as an assistant, your librarian just becomes a permanent assistant.”

Board members were worried about how campuses could ensure that librarians weren’t brought in as deputies.

“This is absolutely something we will hammer home to our directors and make sure they know… this is not an option,” Hosack said.

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