Recruiting is a year-round effort in Fort Worth ISD. These candidates say it’s not enough

The school board election is on May 4.  Early voting starts on April 22.
The school board election is on May 4. Early voting starts on April 22.

Teacher recruitment emerged as an issue in this year’s Fort Worth school board elections with the president and a candidate for District 6 questioning whether the district is doing enough to attract qualified educators.

“They need to be more aggressive,” Fort Worth school board President Tobi Jackson told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram editorial board this week. “We’ve improved them. We’ve become assertive, but to win and to win big for kids in the urban district, you have to recruit aggressively on these college campuses and early. We tend to in FWISD to recruit late. You can’t do that in education.”

A list of job fairs and recruitment sites obtained by the Star-Telegram shows that the district works to attract teachers year-round. The district is recruiting early in the fall semester and into the summer. District officials said they met with 12,000 potential candidates last year.

Jackson is seeking a third term representing District 2, which includes Eastern Hills and Polytechnic high schools.

Education consultant and teacher Anne Darr is running for District 6 on the school board. District 6 covers portions of south Fort Worth and includes South Hills and Southwest high schools. There are two candidates also vying for the District 6 seat — analyst Lisa Saucedo and consultant Sandra Shelton.

The election is May 4. Early voting begins on April 22.

The district, which has more than 82,000 students, had 5,770 full-time teachers, last school year. As of April 1, there were 123 vacancies. Eleven of those vacancies are for bilingual teachers.

The beginning salary is $53,000. Recently, the administration approached trustees about a potential raise for all employees, including a $1,000 increase in starting teacher pay and raising the district’s bilingual stipend to $4,000.

A campaign issue

Both candidates told the Star-Telegram the district isn’t doing enough to recruit teachers as they emerge from college programs. They questioned whether a lack of effort has resulted in the district not attracting the strongest candidates.

“I would like to see FWISD focus on recruitment and retention,” Darr told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram editorial board this week, “Right now, our efforts in recruitment are dismissal.”

Darr said surrounding school districts are “significant competition” for the district.

“We have significant competition that are going to the University of Texas School of Education when they have their teacher fair,” Darr said.

Darr said the district said the district won’t get the best teachers without aggressive recruiting.

“Other people have their staffs filled and then we are hiring in August,” said Darr, who has worked as a teacher in Birdville and Aledo schools.

Jackson said she has received complaints from the public that Fort Worth school district recruiters are not visible at job fairs at UT Austin and UT Arlington.

Yassmin Lee, executive director of the district’s talent acquisition and development department, said the district is on the ground at UT Arlington, but that it quit attending UT Austin because its graduates tend to return to their hometowns.

“So we recruit Fort Worth area students who graduate at UT,” she said.

Lee said the district also places “a significant focus” on Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Hispanic Serving Institutions because they have diverse student populations.

In years past the district has placed billboards in other states to lure qualified teachers. The search for qualified bilingual teachers is highly competitive in Texas.

“We are always looking for bilingual teachers — especially those who can teach science and math,” said Clint Bond, spokesman for the school district.

Jackson said not enough is being done to keep bilingual teachers. She said the district is losing young bilingual teachers to other districts every year.

“To me, that seems like an easy fix, but I’m not the superintendent,” she said.

Recruiting future teachers

Fort Worth school district officials said recruiters visit many colleges in Texas, including TCU, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, North Texas, UT Arlington.

“Recruiting and hiring future Fort Worth ISD teachers is a top priority for our wonderful district,” Cynthia Rincon, chief of human capital management, said in an email.

Recruiters’ strategies include marketing and social media and visiting 200 colleges, trade schools and community centers.

The district’s visits to job fairs and college campuses are shared on social media, including a Twitter account: @FWISD_Careers. The district’s social media strategy includes several hashtags: #YourFutureisinOurClassroom, #FWISD_Careers and #YouBelongHere.

The district’s efforts to attract bilingual teachers has prompted recruiting efforts in Puerto Rico, Texas’ Rio Grande Valley and Arizona State University.

The district has three talent managers who travel to recruit teachers.

On Thursday, the district was represented at a job fair at Arizona State University.

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