By Hillary S. Meeks
Killeen Daily Herald
With more than 2,000 new students expected to enroll in the Killeen Independent School District for 2007-08, the district is busy trying to find, recruit and hire teachers.
This year, the district will host its first job fair at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.
Steve Cook, executive director for personnel services, said the school district hires an average of 300 to 350 teachers every summer.
The addition of military children to pre-kindergarten classes as well as the opening of two new elementary schools in the district required the district to hire more teachers than usual for the 2006-07 school year.
"Last year, we hired about 400 teachers during the summer, and by the time the year ended, we had hired 505," Cook said.
This year, he expects that number to be closer to 400 because of an unexpected increase in enrollment due to military units locating at Fort Hood.
And, every year, about 250 teachers either resign or retire, leaving those spots to be filled. Despite being in a military community and employing military spouses, the turnover rate is the same as the state's, 17 percent.
"I think that says a lot about our district. While nearly 30 percent of our students transition every year, our teachers don't. They like to stay here," Cook said.
The school district uses an enrollment-based formula to drive how many teachers they will hire each year. Cook said if all allocations are filled for the 2007-08 school year, there will be 2,730 teachers in the entire district.
KISD System Superintendent Dr. Jim Hawkins said in a meeting Tuesday that, "we're not going to be able to get all of our teachers from Central Texas – that's just not happening."
So Cook makes sure someone is at every college job fair in the state with an education program. Cook and members of the local chamber of commerce travel to Army posts that will have soldiers transferring to Fort Hood to recruit spouses who teach.
"Another thing is that Web-based recruiting has stepped up considerably in the last two years. We have several agreements with online recruitment agencies, and they post our vacancies," he said.
All applications are filled out on the Internet as well. Cook said the process not only helps streamline application reviews, but it lets him know the person is technologically savvy, which is a necessary skill for teachers these days.
Cook said they've made good progress in hiring new teachers this year, with 81 already committed to teach for 2007-08. He's hoping the job fair will add to that number. An increase in the starting teacher salary as well as a $1,500 sign-on bonus for new teachers, he added, has attracted many teachers to the district.
"I think what's really attractive to a lot of educators is our vision and where we are going with our beliefs. And we offer teachers more professional development opportunities than many districts," Cook said.
An ongoing struggle KISD has faced in teacher hiring is competition with metro-area schools. Hawkins often calls it the "city lights" that draw college graduates, often more so than the smaller setting of Killeen. But the nearness to both countryside and to Austin can also be attractive, Cook said.
"I think we're always going to compete with all that, but I think it's incumbent upon us to market our community," he said.
One point Cook stressed about the job fair is that teachers who apply online before Saturday will have an opportunity to interview at campuses that have openings in their area of teaching.
"It's imperative they do the application online prior to the job fair, and for them to bring resumes," he said.
Contact Hillary S. Meeks at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 501-7464