GEORGETOWN, Texas (KXAN) — Georgetown ISD superintendent Fred Brent said the dozens of district job openings are “not normal,” as the district struggles to keep schools staffed.

Brent said the issue is the result of many teachers leaving the profession during the pandemic, and also a lack of funding coming from the state legislature.

Dr. Brent talked with KXAN about staffing, fentanyl, security, student achievement, and more as part of our superintendent series.

Tom Miller: Earlier this week the district had a meeting with parents where it was giving them a heads-up about drugs and how to spot things. We know other school districts are dealing with fentanyl issues. How is that in Georgetown ISD?

Dr. Fred Brent: Our hearts go out to any families that have been impacted by this fentanyl challenge that we’re all facing. And we just want to make sure our parents and our communities are aware, and our nurses are prepared to respond should we have an emergency. We’ve not had that yet in Georgetown, but we always want to make sure we’re being proactive and prepared.

Tom: Last time we talked (in August) you said staffing levels were pretty good. You were happy with where things were at. I looked this morning – 21 openings in special education, 29 Teacher openings. Is that normal? Is that where you want to be?

Dr. Brent: No, that’s not normal and that’s not where we want to be. We are still working to staff the positions that we can. Our staff has been doing an amazing job of covering the spaces where we have gaps. We have employees who have been doing one job in the classroom that have changed roles. We have campus instructional support teams that are now teaching classes. We have great teachers who are rolling up their sleeves and making things happen. My heart goes out to them and to our campus principals, our custodial staff. We’re short-staffed everywhere in public education right now. In Georgetown, our people will find a way to make things work. It’s not sustainable, we’re going to have to have help.

Tom: At the start of this school year, there were these safety audits where people came to campuses and checked how secure the buildings were. How did Georgetown do?

Dr. Brent: Wow, that was that was a unique experience. We passed everyone, no findings on any of the safety audit inspections that we had. It literally was someone trying to get into your schools, and all of our people did an excellent job.

Tom: We have COVID, we have flu, we have RSV, all going around. Are there things the district can do to mitigate those?

Dr. Brent: The main thing is encouraging families to let us know if they’re sick, encouraging people who are ill to seek treatments. For us it’s about proactive communication with families and encouraging them to let us know if they’re sick so we can help those kids maybe get home or get some sort of assistance.

Tom: This state does these report cards where it gives districts a letter grade. Georgetown ISD got a B. It did well in student achievement, but it got a C in closing the gaps between different student groups. How can you improve that?

Dr. Brent: A lot of this is tied to where our students were coming out of the pandemic. The pandemic has not gone completely, meaning this will be in our system for a while. What we’re seeing is you have students who have not had a regular school year for three years. So now it is meeting students where they are, assessing their needs, and finding the interventions that they need to try to help them gain ground. But it’s going to take years. This pandemic has to be flushed from our system, and it’s going to take a while.

Tom: The state legislature kicked off this week and school districts have different priorities. What is Georgetown ISD hoping the legislature does?

Dr. Brent: They have to do something. We are operating on the same dollars per student that we were getting in 2019. Every family knows the cost of inflation, the cost of doing business if you own a business, and you’ve not changed your revenue stream since 2019. You’re required to provide more services, more salaries, mitigate a pandemic, you have to have more funding. The legislature has to act on the basic allotment. They’re going to have to increase that or schools won’t make it. 30% of your school taxes go to the state general budget, they do not stay local. I don’t think takes taxpayers are truly aware of that.