DISD's Teach Around: District Has a Lot of Vacancies and Not a Lot of Time to Fill Them

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Via.
Last we checked there were around 800 teachers vying for 700 vacancies scattered throughout the Dallas Independent School District. Which, sure, sounds a little odd, given that only a few months ago the district was considering thousands of layoffs due to the state's decision to gut public education. But truth is, the district always knew this would happen: When the DISD, like most districts statewide, said it has to start squeezing more kids into classrooms, that eliminated hundreds of positions in middle schools and high schools.

At the same time, several hundred teachers took the early-retirement buyout, especially at the elementary school level. (At my son's school, for instance, his kindergarten and first-grade teacher both took the buyout, as did the longtime art teacher and several other familiars and favorites.) That means elementary schools in particular are trying to find replacements. And that ain't easy, since many of the secondary teachers aren't certified to teach at the elementary level. "And you can't fit a round peg into a square hole," as trustee Edwin Flores puts it.

I called Flores because I noticed that the district had added to the board's Thursday-morning meeting agenda an item titled "Human Resources Staffing Update Including Options for Addressing Excess Employees," which comes with this freshly minted PowerPoint. Flores says the trustees asked for a staffing update at this weekend's board retreat, particularly since there remain 119 vacancies for bilingual teachers. According to Flores, there are just a handful of qualified bilingual educators among the 387 remaining unassigned teachers in the contract-employee pool from which to choose. That means the district will more than likely have to go outside the district to hire.

"But it's a good time from an employer's point of view, because all these other districts around us have been gong through what we've gone through," he tells Unfair Park. "So there are some potentially really solid candidates out there. But they have to match what we're looking for. If you're not certified bilingual, you can't teach there, because you're not highly qualified as designated by No Child Left Behind."

And, yes, they do know school starts in less than two weeks.

According to the PowerPoint, 729 contract, on-campus employees lost their jobs in the reshuffling; those include teachers, principals, counselors. According to the presentation put together by human resources, 342 of them have found new positions within the district. The 294 at-will employees mentioned are janitors, cafeteria workers and so on; 106 of them have new gigs.

There's already been the one job fair, but with school rapidly approaching, a second one's needed. And principals who've yet to find teachers for their campuses are also being provided with a copy of each available teacher's Classroom Effectiveness Index, which allegedly measures how well their students performed. ("Allegedly" because we know how teachers feel about the CEI.)

A second fair's needed, says Flores, for myriad reasons: "Principals didn't have all the time in the world [to meet with teachers], some got the notice late, they were out of town, so it'll be important they attend and try to get placed," he says. "And at the retreat, the senior executive directors who oversee the principals were there, and what they wanted was the principals to get to access the CEIs because there may be some awesome candidates out there."

But the challenge, says DISD spokesman Jon Dahlander, is "finding a teacher who is certified to teach in a high school class who could also teach third-graders. That's been the challenge from the outset."

Flores explains it this way: "Let's say Hillcrest said, 'We're not going to teach German next year.' That teacher is released and goes into the pool. This could be an awesome teacher, but there's no position for them. It's not a performance-based release pool, it's a population-based release pool based on the number of kids at each campus. .. But I was talking to a principal today who said, 'I picked up six great teachers from the release pool.' And this was a secondary school, and he got some great ones."

Truth is, the district doesn't even figure how many kids are at each school till sometime 'round October, when student populations level off and they can finally set in stone -- or, at least, wet cement -- how many teachers each campus really needs. But time's tight: Some schools are still missing several teachers, and many principals are talking about using substitutes till they can find perfect fits -- which is fine with Flores.

"There's a strong consensus that we as a board want our leaders on our campuses to be able to manage their staff and pick their players," he says.

"We were fortunate that teachers did not have to be laid off," adds Dahlander. "But at the same time, to think that you can just have these resignations and them things will just shuffle out perfectly in a school district this large, that was never predicted. That's something we have continued to say will be a challenge, and as we approach the school year it is."
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Diane Birdwell
Diane Birdwell

This is not the first time they have had to have a major reallignment of teachers based on the numbers. We did this about 4 years ago, right?

Flores is only half-right. Some GREAT teachers are in the pool, but there are some not so great---- depends on the principal and what they wanted to do.... But the fact that they waited SO LONG, Texas Leg or not, shows that yet again, campuses have to start over---master schedules, student schedules, hirings, moves, coaching positions, duty assignments, ---in other words, it all rolls down hill, and when the schools are working with less to being with....

But no matter the disruptions, the interfering, the mismanagement, we have to be ready on Aug 22nd--- And we teachers will, because we are professionals. Sadly, they count on it.

Joyce Foreman
Joyce Foreman

Flores has been the policy chair for the last 3 or 4 years.  A committee of one changing the policies to fit his agenda.  No wonder DISD has so many problems.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

And the DMN will probably endorse him when he runs for reelection...

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

And knowing early on that elementary teachers would not need to be cut, why were they allowed to take the buy-out money?

Why wasn't the buy-out limited to the teaching positions predicted to be cut--the secondary teachers?

And remember where that buy-out money (up to $10K) came from:  TAXPAYERS.

I like how Flores says this is all a "good thing" for employers, like the district is going to pick up some awesome teachers out there just dying to work for Dysfunction ISD.  

Several great teachers I know took the buy-out and every one of them has been hired by suburban districts.  Not sure where all these phenomenal teachers are who haven't already been hired elsewhere....2 weeks before school starts.

Of course, Flores is the same person who called Hinojosa a "rock star" and I'm pretty sure he once nominated Hinojosa for DMN's Texan of the Year award.  

Howard
Howard

Sounds like a clusterfuck of mismanagement, despite how they try to spin this as a good thing. "O noes we have to do spending cuts!" -MONTHS PASS- "O noes we have to hire more teachers now!"

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

OMG.  Do not get me started.I hope no one believes these people.

I don't even know where to start with the half-truths you have been told.

-The CEIs, embraced by Flores, are terrible and misleading.But guess who they benefit:  the law firms (like the West law firm) hired to represent the district.More teacher grievances = more money for certain law firms.DISD spends double on grievances compared to Houston.  Hmmm....just look at who benefits from policies guaranteed to cause grievances.

Now look at who allows these policies (that would be the school board).

-My school released teachers and then went to the district and picked up younger teachers with the SAME certifications. Younger = cheaper.  BS about certifications might be true in a couple of cases, but not in most.

-The current K-5 bilingual program, also embraced by Flores BUT TRIED AND ABANDONED BY OTHER STATES, is excessive, expensive, and not required by the state.  All TX districts have bilingual and LEP kids, but only DISD does this ridiculous program.  Why?  

-In addition to the 166 certified jobs I saw posted, I also saw LOTS of central office positions posted.  Bigger classes, but let's make sure we keep alllll those central office people.

-I'd bet BIG MONEY there is a backlog in HR in terms of processing applicants.  There always is and yet there is NEVER a consequence for the staffing specialists.  Wonder if the files down there--the ones full of ss# and other confidential info--are still simply stacked floor to ceiling instead of actually being filed.  

Only the kids and the good teachers suffer.And the taxpayers.

DuckDuckGoose
DuckDuckGoose

I will echo the 'younger=cheaper' comment.  Why keep 20 year teachers at the top of the salary range when you can move in fresh-out-of-Sam Houston State rookies at far less $?

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

Unlike many teachers, I do not believe in a seniority system where older teachers automatically make more than younger teachers.  So I don't blame principals for unloading ineffective and expensive older teachers in exchange for younger, cheaper teachers.

My problem is with Flores trying to act like the issue is really about certification, when it isn't.  It's about younger = cheaper.  

But the short-sighted Floreses of the world need to recognize what's going to happen if we go to younger, cheaper teachers simply bc they are younger and cheaper:  the best teachers who teach bc it is their calling will not come to DISD.  

Of course, younger & cheaper teachers will leave more money for the school board members to waste on crony contracts and other endeavors that benefit their personal wallets.

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