The ongoing teacher shortage has hit school districts small and large. The challenges brought on by the pandemic, like switching to virtual learning, only made things worse.
The Killeen Independent School District began tackling these challenges head on.
Killeen ISD now has the highest new teacher starting salary at just over $56,000 and also offers a variety of signing bonuses and raises for all district employees.
“Since January 1st, that's over 700 people that we hired," said Chief Communications And Marketing Officer Taina Maya. "So we hired people to fill position starting in January and we’ve been able to keep them and retain them as we go into the new school year. We did see a lot of struggle. We heard from our campuses, we listened to teachers, we listened to employees, and developed really I would say creative stipends.”
The district has hired around 500 new teachers and staff this summer alone, including Jessica Hicks.
Hicks is the new principal at Willow Springs Elementary school. She started her job with the district in April and hit the ground running recruiting teachers from across the country.
“I had to hire new teachers because when there’s a leadership change there’s obviously a lot of new hires,” said Hicks. “I’ve been told that last year the school started with 18 long-term substitutes in core classes. I’m happy to say this year we’re not starting with any long-term substitutes for for classes.”
Hicks has nearly 20 years of education experience. Most recently, she had been a principal in Garland ISD since 2014. She said coming here to Central Texas has a deeper meaning.
“I really wanted to work in Killeen because I’m a former military child and I wanted to give back to the community that took care of me,” said Hicks.
Her main goal this school year is to create a positive culture where students and teachers can thrive. She plans on making a long lasting impact within KISD.
“We are going to keep each other‘s fire lit and keep each other motivated and inspired to help children," Hicks said.
According to the district's job website, there are 166 open positions. The majority of those are specialized spots for bilingual teachers and special education needs.