Houston ISD teachers brace for staffing shortage ahead of new school year – Houston Public Media

Daniel Santos

Daniel Santos teaches students at Navarro Middle School.

Teachers across the city say they feel like they aren’t being heard, are experiencing poor working conditions, face a lack of autonomy and are burned-out on their jobs.

Daniel Santos teaches at Houston ISD’s Navarro Middle School and is with the Houston Federation of Teachers. He said teachers are telling him they’re overwhelmed.

If vacancies aren’t filled, Santos says teachers are worried they may need to rely on long-term substitutes or combine classes.

“They’re expressing concern that on that first day of school in two weeks that they may face classes that will need to be combined or, or face having to rely on teacher assistants for long term substitutes, especially in those poor classes that are in which we need to start preparing for for the state tests,” Santos said.

For years, teachers like Santos have been trying to advocate for better resources and facilities. He said teachers are leaving the district to go to schools that have the equipment and facilities they need.

“Some campuses like mine, for a decade have not had a library. My students have never seen a library in my school for 10 years. We’re hoping that that can change very soon.”

Santos also added that schools that tend to serve low-income communities have higher rates of teacher shortages.

“Oftentimes those shortages that we see, when the first day of school begins, campuses that have been historically underserved, or have had challenges staffing, those schools are the ones that on the first day of school are the ones that that generally will have to begin short staffed or with substitutes or combining classes.”

He says he’s raised concerns about the inequity of some of these shortages, but is only cautiously optimistic about improvements in their district.

“I’m cautiously optimistic but I’m also bracing for that inequity in regions or in schools that have historically not been facing those challenges, just staffing in general before the pandemic,” he said.

HISD’s talent acquisition team says they’ve implemented three strategies to keep teachers they currently have around; better compensation, improved district culture and more teacher development. That also includes putting more support under top administrators and school leaders.

“So the leadership development department is being restructured to make sure that we’re providing those school leaders the absolute best possible support that we can, so that they can go provide their teachers the best possible support they can,” said director of talent acquisition , William Solomon.

The school district has seen over 900 teacher vacancies, which contributes to the over 3,400 educator vacancies across the city’s 18 districts, according to the Houston Chronicle.

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