‘We just can’t:’ Killeen ISD chief, board tackle staffing shortage | Education

After a particularly trying nine months, more than 1,330 Killeen Independent School District full-time employees — including 546 teachers — called it quits during the 2021-22 school year.

It’s not a secret that teachers, and students, have had a rough time of it in recent years as the COVID-19 pandemic drags on.

The mass exodus of educators is not unique to Killeen ISD.

In Austin ISD, according to the Austin Chronicle, 2,106 staff members resigned during the 2021-22 school year. The district has about 10,000 employees, AISD states on its LinkedIn page. By comparison, Killeen ISD has about 6,000.

When asked Tuesday for the number of full-time staff members and teachers who resigned or retired during the 2021-22 school year, Copperas Cove ISD did not provide such data by deadline Friday. CCISD instead directed the Herald to the district’s school board meeting page.

The Herald then filed a Freedom of Information Act request Thursday for all full-time employee notices of resignation and retirement received during CCISD’s 2021-22 school year.

According to the district’s most current job postings online Saturday, CCISD has 152 positions open.

As COVID-19 spread locally last fall and spring, and KISD grappled with a substitute shortage on top of a worsening teacher shortage, exasperated teachers reportedly gave up what little time of their own they had — conference periods and lunch breaks — to fill in for their sick coworkers.

Many teachers with COVID-19 were hospitalized, some placed on ventilators, and at least two elementary school KISD teachers died from COVID-19 last year.

Multiple classes of students, at times, were corralled in a gymnasium or cafeteria because of severe staff limitations.

During a school board meeting Tuesday, KISD Superintendent John Craft said the conditions witnessed last year cannot happen again.

“We just can’t; this past year has to be an anomaly,” Craft said. “It has to be.”

“I applaud our teachers and educators for their efforts in doing what had to be done but we’ve got to get out of that mode of operations to be successful academically,” he said.

Within the first 10 months of the pandemic, between March 2020 and Jan. 2021, 1,061 KISD employees resigned, 39% of whom were teachers.

During the 2021-2022 school year, a grand total of 1,333 full-time KISD employees quit, including 632 auxiliary and 701 professional staff members. Of those, 546 were teachers — making up about 40.9% of KISD’s resignations during that time period.

According to district data provided Thursday, 129 full-time employees also retired last year, including 57 teachers.

As of Thursday, KISD has 335 teacher positions to fill before August. The district says about 137 of those positions are in the process of being filled. More positions may come available in coming weeks, as the deadline for teachers to resign without penalty is July 1.

“We feel confident our new compensation package and recruitment and retention department will work diligently to staff campuses and support positions for the upcoming year,” KISD spokeswoman Taina Maya said Thursday.

To tackle the shortage, the KISD school board, minus Cullen Mills, who was absent, voted 6-0 Tuesday to approve Texas Education Agency teacher certification waivers for the 2022-2023 and 2023-2024 school years.

The newly approved measure gives the district the green light to hire alternatively certified teachers who have yet to complete any of their certification coursework.

Previously, KISD would hire teachers who received a “statement of eligibility” from an alternative certification provider. Now, those candidates will only have to show a “statement of acceptance.”

“What this waiver allows us to do is move that timeline up,” David Manley, KISD’s director of human resources, said Thursday. “Instead of waiting for you to finish a certain amount of the work and pass the content test, this waiver allows us to hire you and get you started upon a statement of acceptance to an (alternative certification) program.”

Manley said KISD would provide the new teachers with additional campus support.

“We feel like a district we’re set up to do this,” he said. “By going this route, our ultimate goal is for these individuals to become certified teachers.”

Board member Oliver Mintz asked Manley if he could point to waiver success stories in other school districts.

Manley told Mintz about 35% of alternatively certified teachers leave the profession after five years, according to an article from the Texas Association of School Boards. In comparison, he said, about 15% of classically trained educators leave after five years.

But Manley, who said he once hired about 50% of his staff at Harker Heights High School from alternative certification programs, said he was “fairly confident” in the waiver.

“Our hope is that this is a little different in a way because we are committing ourselves to these applicants earlier in the process and feel like we’d have a better chance of them being successful,” he said.

Since Jan 1, Manley said the district hired 358 teachers, but also had 354 teacher resignations.


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