Campus overhaul: New staffing formula to shake up Austin ISD schools and programs

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Every single campus in the Austin Independent School District will be restructured based on a new staffing formula, aimed at seeking equity and prioritizing the needs of students across Austin, the district’s Chief of Human Capital said.

The introduction of the staffing formula occurred at an AISD Board of Trustees meeting earlier this month. But last Friday’s initial deadline to submit plans has allowed campus administrators to make early announcements to faculty and families.

The district says the staffing formula was developed collaboratively with different departments, including academic, budget, human capital and school leadership. It’s based on student enrollment projections and campus needs, which helps determine the amount of teacher funding provided to each campus.

There are also other weighted factors that are being considered, including how many special education students and economically-disadvantaged students are on campus, the TEA grade for the school and any special programs it may offer.

Leslie Stephens, AISD’s Chief Human Capital Officer, said this is the their “first attempt” to account for equity within the district. It’s a strategy to prioritize the budget and align the district with its guiding principle: to give students that need the most resources as many options as possible.

“It’s really trying to reset the district so that everyone is now staffed to formula,” Stephens said. “It’s really setting the priority based on the student needs at each campus.”

Stephens recognized that this will shake things up, particularly for speciality schools which had specific magnet allocations.

Several newsletters and emails have already gone out to families and staff. Like at the Ann Richards School for Young Women Learners, where some computer science courses were cut. The Parents and Friends of the Liberal Arts and Science Academy revealed that around half of its counselors will no longer be funded. McCallum Middle School dropped its fine arts director position. And the principal at Kealing Middle School shared that it will have fewer staff in Fall 2021, but will add three new special education teachers and five new employees using Title 1 funds.

Kealing Middle School science teacher Tania Tasneem agrees the district should be searching for equitable solutions, but she said this feels like the decision making process is being rushed. She said student choice sheets weren’t even submitted by the time the district issued their deadlines for an updated staffing schedule.

“I understand where this is all stemming from, but also I just don’t feel like this is the way, especially this year,” Tasneem said. “We needed some time to have these difficult conversations with each other.”

She’s also concerned that relocating teachers will cause disruptions that impact the culture campuses have been building for years. Tasneem said she has been in the same classroom for nearly a decade and a half and can’t imagine being anywhere else.

“We’ve been told, ‘nobody is losing their job, but you might be at another school.’ Well, I’ve been in the same classroom for 14 years. Leaving this school would be like losing my job.”

Tania Tasneem, Kealing Middle School Teacher

The district will be going over campus plans all this week as campuses turn in their blueprints to Central Office. Stephens said the formula isn’t meant to be rigid and there may be exceptions for each campus.

“Are we going to have exceptions? You bet. Every single system I’ve ever been in does. But we have to be able to identify those exceptions, explain those exceptions and document them so that in our staffing formulas, we account for those,” Stephens said.

The district is offering support to campus principals to make sure beloved programs stay intact. They are also encouraging parents to participate in the process and attend any town halls your campus may be setting up.

Reach KXAN’s Education Reporter Alex Caprariello by email at alexc@kxan.com or by phone at 512-703-5365, or find him on Twitter and Facebook.

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