Comal ISD Supt. Andrew Kim will serve on the Texas Education Agency’s (TEA) new task force on educator staffing.
On Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott told the TEA to suggest policy changes and address flexibility issues related to the teacher certification process.
“This task force should work diligently to ensure that best practices and resources for recruitment and retention are provided to districts to ensure the learning environment of Texas students is not interrupted by the absence of a qualified teacher,” he said in a letter.
Many school districts across the state are struggling with staff shortages related to the COVID-19 pandemic and other factors.
“Teachers are the single-most-important school-based factor affecting student outcomes,” said TEA Commissioner Mike Morath in a statement. “The Teacher Vacancy Task Force will further ensure our ability to provide the best guidance, support and resources to help schools find and retain the teachers they need for all their students.”
However, in an email to parents yesterday, Kim described Comal ISD as the “antithesis of what other school districts are experiencing.”
The district strives to provide a “sense of normalcy” for students during uncertain times.
“Key to achieving this goal is our teachers, staff and administrators,” he said. “Throughout these past two years, they have not wavered in their dedication to providing opportunities for students to achieve their best — through academics and extracurriculars.
“Yes, we’ve had to adapt, but not at the sacrifice of changing the core of who we are,” Kim said. “If any changes are to be made, it’s that I need to do a better job as a superintendent at looking at how we do things and improving our processes.”
Comal ISD’s teacher-applicant pool is strong due to the district’s dedication to traditions and values, he said, describing the district as one of the most sought-after in Texas.
In a statement, Morath said TEA’s teacher task force will work to:
- Understand the challenges districts currently face relating to teacher vacancies.
- Share best practices for addressing critical teacher vacancy and shortage areas, including exploring opportunities for certification, placement and hiring flexibilities.
- Develop recommendations for regulatory or other policy changes for TEA.
- Provide feedback on TEA initiatives designed to help impact vacancies.
Although Morath said the task force will rely heavily on the presence and input of current teachers, only two were appointed to the 28-member task force.
The rest of the group includes superintendents and administrators. The task force will meet every other month for a year.
Criticism of Kim’s appointment was swift on Open Comal County Schools Safely, where district policies are frequently analyzed by teachers and parents.
“We absolutely are struggling with teacher retention, just like the rest of the nation,” said Olivia Weisinger, an administrator for the page. “We need to be willing to admit that to address it.”
There are currently 203 openings on the district’s job board.
Open Comal County Schools Safely estimates 32% of educator staffing needs were unfilled during the current school year.
Comal ISD spokesperson Steve Stanford said 86 of the 203 positions posted on the district’s job board are for teachers. Fifty-five of the 86 teaching positions posted are for the 2022-23 school year.
The school board approved additional staffing in February to allow campuses to recruit and hire teachers to prepare for the next school year’s student growth projections, he said.
The district has 30 current classroom-teaching vacancies across its campuses out of over 700 certified teaching positions as of March 8, which represents 1.7% of certified teaching personnel.
Some positions might have more than one post in order to recruit individuals. Some postings are for long-term substitutes for teachers who may be out on Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
Stanford said specialized positions like dyslexia, auditory, custodian, bus drivers, substitute teachers and others stay posted “as we are continually searching for qualified individuals,” Stanford said.