By Iuliana Petre
Killeen Daily Herald
One of the biggest reasons Central Texas remains a transient place is that the world's largest military installation – Fort Hood – is located in the heart of the community.
And in the same manner in which the military affects student mobility rates, the military affects the lives of teachers who are spouses and dependants.
"The biggest cause of teacher turnover is the military. We employee a large number of military spouses and retired soldiers," said Steve Cook, Killeen Independent School District's executive director for personnel services, adding "but the blessing is that the teachers that come in and out of the district possess a world vision having taught in other parts of the country and others parts of the world."
And although teachers – just like their students – enter and leave the classroom throughout the course of the school year, teachers' turnover rates are lower than student mobility rates by about half.
"Our teacher turnover rate this past year was 15.2 percent," Cook said, adding that this number was two percent lower than the previous year and lower than the state average.
And although in past years KISD started the school year shorthanded on teachers, this year the district did a much better job employing teachers and filling slots.
"We've had years in the past where we start short. That's the norm for a large district," Cook said, explaining that KISD is the 25th largest district in the state.
But, of the 2,963 full-time equivalent positions available in the district, KISD started the 2008-09 school year with only 12 vacancies.
"We filled all of the special education positions this year," Cook said.
The critical shortage areas are those positions where teachers are hard to come by – high school mathematics, chemistry, physics, special education, Spanish and bilingual – but the district offers recurring stipends to persuade educators to stay in those slots.
Additionally, to help with classroom management concerns – aside from the state mandated student-to-teacher ratio at the kindergarten to fourth-grade level – the district adopted a staffing guideline stating that middle and high school classrooms are not to exceed a ratio of 24 students to 1 teacher.
Some shuffling of teachers and students may occur on some of the district's campuses early on in the year, but additional shuffling doesn't occur during the year.
"We're sensitive to the needs of teachers, principals, students and parents and don't move teachers multiple times," Cooks said, adding that the district's procedures have been in place for some time and the moves and changes are now done very smoothly.
Contact Iuliana Petre at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7469.