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Livingston ISD mulls staffing

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Livingston ISD LogoBy Brian Besch
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The Livingston ISD School Board heard from a staffing expert, an update on the teacher incentive allotment, and approved a staffing pool in Monday’s regular meeting for February.

Expert Dale Dixon spoke to the board, informing them that LISD is efficiently staffed, but needs to examine staffing every year.

“You are, in fact, more efficiently staffed than similar districts,” Dixon said. “However, there are some data here that should definitely be part of the planning process. When you go through the planning process of hiring teachers — and you should be underway — you have to keep in mind what it takes to meet accountability demands. And also, you need to take into account what it’s going to take to keep you in competition with salaries that are exploding in districts around you. There’s no computer program that will tell you what that is, but we can take the data and make important decisions.”

LISD had Dixon complete a staffing study in October of 2014. The district has operated with those staffing ratios since that time, and the board has approved any staffing adjustments. The finances of the district have maintained sound practice by staying with Dixon’s recommendations.

In a related action item, the board approved LISD staffing, including the hiring of a teacher pool to 50% of a three-year hiring average.

Livingston ISD Director of Personnel Ben Wilroy said he looks at a four-year average when going through the hiring process.

LISD superintendent Dr. Brent Hawkins explained the pool process that has allowed the district to begin the school year with a full staff, a rarity amongst local school districts.

“Mr. Wilroy looks at a historical average of how many people we hired over the years,” Hawkins said. “If you approve that tonight, we go ahead and start posting pool positions. We start hiring positions in that pool, so that as positions become available, those employees are put into those positions. That is very proactive and it does come at a risk. The other side of it is the old adage of ‘the early bird gets the worm.’ It closes quick, so when you are hiring in July, you’re hiring people who are like some of our districts to the south of us that do that — associate teachers, where they don’t have their certification.”

The Teacher Incentive Allotment (TIA) was created by the Texas Legislature as part of House Bill 3 to provide a realistic pathway for top teachers to earn six-figure salaries and to help attract and retain highly effective teachers at traditionally hard-to-staff schools.

The district submitted its designation data to Texas Tech University to go through the process of valuation for the teacher incentive allotment. At the beginning of the month, the district received an email stating 22 teachers have been approved. By the end of April or first of May, notification should be received from the Texas Education Agency’s Teacher Incentive Allotment division on a final approval and what amounts of money will be sent.

The teachers will have the designations for five years and receive a certain bonus for those five years. All 22 of the teachers submitted have been approved to this point. Wilroy said the first approval is a major hoop in receiving the designation.

“That’s the whole idea behind this, is to put the most talented and the best teachers in our classrooms, and especially in our rural districts where those dollar amounts will rise.” Wilroy said.

Wilroy also said the bonus money earned for the designation will follow teachers to another district, should they choose to move.

Hawkins thanked his staff for the work provided to get over the first major hurdle. He relayed stories he has heard over the past week of school districts who were not able to secure the designation for their teachers because of errors in the application process.

There was no motion made on amending a policy that would strike policy provisions, meaning the board would hear all grievances in the policy including all extracurricular grievances.

The consent agenda was approved, consisting of overnight trips, payment of bills, property donations, and a cheer and Emerald Belles constitution. 

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