By Kevin M. Smith
Killeen Daily Herald
The Killeen Independent School District is past the halfway mark for hiring about 400 new teachers by August.
Steve Cook, KISD's executive director of personnel services, said the district has hired about 230 new teachers for the upcoming school year, which begins Aug. 27.
"Which is good," Cook said.
Many of those hired came as a result of a recent job fair the school district hosted, which brought about 400 applicants. This was the first year KISD had its own job fair. Cook said because of the success, it will be an annual event.
"Even the weeks following, the principals scheduled interviews from that event," Cook said.
The district sends representatives to every college in the state that has a job fair and does some out-of-state recruiting. The goal in mind is to get a full staff in the classrooms before the students get there.
"It's a challenge every year to fill all the teacher vacancies," said board trustee Mike Helm, adding that the personnel department does a good job recruiting teachers.
Teachers report Aug. 20, and new teacher induction is Aug. 13, leaving fewer than two months to complete the hiring process. Cook said the school district has hired more teachers at this point in the summer than last year.
"This year is not unusual at all," said Helm, who has served on the board since July 2004.
In recent years, KISD has been tasked with hiring 300 to 350 new teachers each summer. Last year, the school district needed 400 new teachers and such is the case this year.
"It's just the nature of our community," Cook said.
In addition to typical reasons for turnover, such as retirement, KISD sees turnover from teachers whose spouse is in the military and gets stationed elsewhere.
"It's a curse and a blessing at the same time because we get a lot of great people from all over the U.S. working for us," said Cook, adding that teachers often have to leave to follow their spouses in the military.
Despite that, Cook said KISD has about a 17 percent turnover rate, which is the state average. But 17 percent for KISD is much different than some smaller district. KISD has about 6,000 full-time employees and expects 39,000 students this fall.
"That's a large school district," Cook said.
Vacancies are at every grade level and for practically every subject, but Cook said the subjects most difficult to recruit teachers for are secondary Spanish, chemistry, physics and math.
"Those are always hard to fill, especially the hard sciences like chemistry and physics," Cook said. "That's a national challenge."
KISD, and school districts everywhere, also face a challenge in hiring school counselors, according to Cook. The program for a master's degree in school counseling is usually about 20 hours more than other master's programs, such as principal. Cook said that deters some people from starting or completing the program.
"You have to have a passion for counseling," Cook said.
Counselors' responsibilities include helping students with academic adjustments and dealing with the struggles of growing up. In a place like Killeen, Cook said, counselors also have to be able to help students in military families adjust to their new environment.
This year, KISD had 25 vacancies for school counselors after the board approved creating 12 new counselor positions. There are 10 positions remaining to be filled in KISD.
There are also auxiliary and support staff positions open. Cook said KISD needs bus drivers.
"There is always a need there," Cook said.
The school district needs about 300 bus drivers, custodians and school nutrition employees.
Anyone interested in any positions at KISD can apply online at www.killeenisd.org or call the personnel services office at 501-0043.
Contact Kevin M. Smith at email@example.com or call (254) 501-7550