Keller trustees approve $3.8 million for new staff

Posted Monday, May. 20, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Keller school board members approved $3.8 million for more than 50 new staff positions for the 2013-14 school year.

At a special board meeting on May 16, trustees voted 7-0 in favor of adding teachers, administrators and hourly workers to help improve services in and out of classrooms.

“We’re trying to be reasonable with what we bring forward but get to the point where we’re more effective and efficient,” said Superintendent Randy Reid.

Almost $1.6 million goes to establish 29 additional teacher positions, most of them at high schools and several at middle schools. During massive budget cuts two years ago, officials increased class sizes at the secondary level, with most of the layoffs at the high school level. The current staffing ratio is 28 students to one teacher, but some classes are much larger while others are smaller.

Reid said every high school would get three to seven new teaching positions. The amount is not enough to make a big impact on classroom size but should make some classes more reasonable.

“The most expensive way to help our teachers is to reduce class size load,” Reid said. Officials could spend $30 million and still have classes that seem too big, he said.

The approved positions also include five gifted-talented (G/T) teachers at a cost of $275,000. Since the 2011 budget reductions, pull-out services for kindergarten through second grade students have been eliminated. Classroom teachers are providing enrichment opportunities for advanced students.

Deana Lopez, associate superintendent of curriculum, said adding G/T teachers would lighten the load of classroom teachers and provide better instruction for students. With the additions, 15 G/T specialists will serve 26 elementary and intermediate campuses.

The new posts also include four intervention counselors, one for each high school, to deal with students and their families in crisis situations and four academic specialists for students learning English. The specialists will conduct language assessments and help students with classwork.

Officials also plan to hire two teachers who are certified in dyslexia and one with bilingual certification to fill in for teachers in those areas during long-term absences.

Other new positions include an assistant athletic director, early childhood education coordinator, curriculum director, an executive director of leadership, human resources director and technology support coordinator. Some of those administrative positions are restored after being cut two years ago and others are due to growth.

The district will spend $360,000 to hire administrative assistants to help principals at the largest middle and intermediate schools, along with the largest elementary, Eagle Ridge. The extra support staff members would be a less expensive option to hiring more assistant principals, officials said.

Another $304,366 will be allocated to give 41 custodians additional pay days. In 2011, officials reduced the number of days 41 custodians worked to save money but have ended up spending a lot in overtime to do deep cleaning during summers.

Administrators are being cautious in hiring additional personnel due to budget uncertainties but are fairly confident that Keller schools will receive more state funds next year. Based on talks in the Texas Legislature, officials estimate the district will receive an extra $7 million to $8.5 million for the 2013-14 budget year. The Legislature is scheduled to conclude the biennial session by the end of the month.

Keller district officials are estimating next year’s deficit at less than $13 million if the extra funding comes through. Keller has $83 million in district savings to cover deficits for several years while keeping some in reserves for cash flow.

Trustee Craig Allen said, “It’s time to start spending that down in earnest, but still, hiring people is the worst way to be cautious.”

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