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Photo by Renee Dominguez/KUT. Austin ISD Interim Superintendent Dr. Anthony Mays greets students on the first day of school at Zilker Elementary School.

Austin ISD is trying to fill more than 150 teacher vacancies days into the new school year

Tuesday, August 23, 2022 by Becky Fogel, KUT

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The Austin Independent School District is continuing to recruit and hire teachers days into the new school year that began Monday. Austin ISD started the summer with more than 1,000 teacher vacancies, the highest number the district has ever had. AISD officials told the board of trustees on Thursday they have filled most of the openings, but there is still work to do.

Here’s a snapshot of a few key numbers on teacher vacancies, student enrollment and security measures during the first week of the 2022-2023 academic year.

Teacher vacancies 

Leslie Stephens, AISD’s chief human capital officer, said the number of teacher vacancies is a moving target because jobs may appear open even as candidates are being processed for hire. But, as of Tuesday, the district had 160 teacher vacancies, which is 18 more than last year. There are 76 openings at elementary schools, 46 at middle schools and 38 at high schools.

Stephens said more than 60 of the openings are for special education teachers.

“That is probably one of our highest and our hardest to staff areas, and we all know that is and that’s across the board,” she said.

Austin ISD has hired more than 688 new teachers for the 2022-2023 school year. The district had to hire just over 500 teachers in each of the previous two school years.

AISD is also still hiring for more than 130 teacher assistants. The vast majority of those are for special education and physical education.

Student enrollment

Stephens told trustees that on the first day of school there were 74,482 kids in the student information system. That figure is a combination of students who were enrolled in the district for the previous school year and newly registered students. But that is not the only number the district is looking at.

Austin ISD trained principals on how to count students on their campuses during the first 10 days of school. As of Wednesday, the physical count of students on campuses was 65,667.

Stephens explained certain figures are still up in the air.

“We’re still doing student transfers at this point in time,” she said. “We also know that we’re still doing our pre-K enrollment. So we know we’ve got about a thousand students to get through that application process in our early childhood programs.”

The annual budget the AISD school board approved earlier this year was based on a projected enrollment of more than 74,000 students. State funding for public schools in Texas is based largely on students’ daily attendance.

Trustee Lynn Boswell, who represents District 5, raised concerns about the enrollment numbers.

“How much should we worry, and how will you let us know to worry more or worry less as this comes into focus?” she asked.

Stephens replied Austin ISD will have a clearer picture of enrollment after next Friday because the district will know which students are not returning this year and transfers will be completed.

“So literally that first 10 days of school, it’s really hard to be really, really specific because it does vary as the system moves,” she said.

School safety

Austin ISD officials also shared an update on efforts to increase security during the school year. One of the steps the district took was conducting an audit of exterior doors over the summer.

“Every campus took part in this, either a principal or (assistant principal) walked to every single exterior door and tested the door on multiple features,” said Jacob Reach, AISD’s chief of governmental relations and board services.

He said they were checking for five different enhanced safety features, such as a reinforced door frame and whether doors close and lock automatically.

“Just about 99 percent of all of our exterior doors had at least one of these (five enhanced safety features),” he said.

Reach added all of the exterior doors have locks, but that’s not considered an enhanced safety feature.

According to the audit, 91 percent of exterior doors on campuses close automatically, and the overwhelming majority of those are working properly. Similarly, 85 percent of exterior doors lock automatically, and of those, 95 percent were operational.

Reach said the district is prioritizing work orders for repairs to exterior doors. He said campus staff will check the exterior doors weekly to make sure safety features are working.

This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT.

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