AUSTIN (KXAN)– In a couple of weeks, Austin ISD’s board of trustees is set to vote on some changes the district hopes will recruit and retain teachers.
“It’s not just about compensation, it’s about making the job doable,” said Brandi Hosack, AISD chief human capital officer, during Thursday night’s board meeting in which they discussed some changes.
As of Friday, AISD’s website shows 238 teaching positions that need to be filled.
The district has been trying to recover from a record-high number of teachers who quit or retired last school year.
The first change would add office hours and tutoring to the list of teacher functions that fall outside of their required duties of the day. Those, along with campus meetings and planning, would be limited to four hours a month.
“What teachers are having to navigate now is very different. And so we should be compensating our teachers above and beyond… if we’re going to make requirements to that degree. So we’re trying to put limits on this,” Hosack explained.
Ken Zarifis, president of Education Austin, AISD’s employee union, said while they’re still pushing for more pay, this change is important in respecting teachers’ work days.
“We limit that amount of time that is required after school for any given thing around meetings or whatever happens after the school day, and we want to codify it, we want to formalize it through a consultation proposal,” Zarifis said.
The next change would be a moratorium on meetings during parent teacher conferences so that teachers have time to prepare.
If approved, the substitute teacher system would also change.
Elementary teachers would be paid more if the district cannot find a substitute for another teacher and they have to take on extra students in their classroom.
“We have five students go into classroom A, five go into classroom B, five to classroom C. It is an extra duty and an extra challenge for that teacher and to be able to compensate fairly for that,” Hosack said.
Zarifis said that used to be a policy but was taken out during Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde’s tenure.
“We’re very excited about the fact that the district has reflected and realized that that’s the best approach,” he said.
Zarifis said if passed, it will be important to make sure all campuses follow the new policies.
“How you’re able to train principals on the details of this… that’s going to be important,” he said.
Board members asked how the district would track hours and fairly compensate teachers for them.
“One area where we really struggle is getting people what their what their do their compensation in a timely manner,” said trustee Candace Hunter. “[It] took me 15 months one time to get $300.”
Trustee Andrew Gonzales agreed.
“While I understand that there, there are ways to fix that problem and get that money back, I would love to see it taken care of on the front end so that there’s a really clear, easy system,” he said.
Hunter suggested a way for teachers to be able to track hours themselves.
“I think maybe that will be helpful so that at the end of the day, they can say, ‘I did get all of back when I put in,'” she said.
Another change would take librarians off the roster of substitutes, so that they can focus on their own duties.
“It is so important… for our campuses to have fully functioning libraries, and a librarian to be a librarian,” Hosack said. “And when you open the door, for using the librarian as a sub, your librarian just became a permanent sub.”
Board members also worried how campuses would be able to make sure that librarians don’t get pulled as subs.
“That is absolutely something that we will hammer home with our principals and make sure that they know that that is that that’s not the option there,” Hosack said.
Zarifis said while these policy changes may not stop teachers from leaving right now, they are steps in the right direction.
“As we begin to change the philosophy and the climate and the culture of AISD, to where it shows that we’re listening to workers, that we respect workers, and that we’re going to do little and large things to do to demonstrate that– long term, you stop the bleeding of employees,” Zarifis said.
AISD school board members are set to vote on the policy proposals in a couple of weeks.