Leander ISD will begin hiring for new full-time positions ahead of next school year as some student populations and campuses experience growth.

The board of trustees approved the early release of 19 additional positions for special education, bilingual and dual language programs as well as the district’s Early College High School at a March 7 meeting.

The overview

The board's vote has allowed the district to start hiring for $1.3 million in additional positions for next school year before the district’s fiscal year 2024-25 budget is adopted, Superintendent Bruce Gearing said. Beginning the hiring process early will allow the district to find the most qualified candidates for positions that are traditionally hard to fill, he said.

“The longer we leave them unfilled, the more difficult it is for us to fill them. These are in parts of the district that are difficult to find people,” Gearing said in an interview with Community Impact.

The following additional positions were approved for next school year:
  • Nine special education teachers
  • Four dual language/bilingual teachers
  • Four ECHS teachers
  • One ECHS registered nurse
  • One ECHS instructional coach
The district has already hired the special education teachers due to existing vacancies in the department, LISD Chief Financial Officer Pete Pape said.

The context

The new positions come as the district is evaluating more students for special education services, and dual language and bilingual populations have expanded over the last few years, Gearing said. From 2019 to 2023, the district’s special education program grew by about 1,000 students while the number of emergent bilingual students almost doubled from 2,918 to 5,705 students, according to district data.

In August, ECHS will welcome its third class of around 125 students with grades 9-11, Gearing said. The district's school of choice will move into portables as the Austin Community College San Gabriel Campus reaches capacity.

Despite some student populations expanding, the district has released fewer positions ahead of next school year than it has in previous years as overall student enrollment growth has slowed, he said.

Going forward

The district has faced teacher shortages in recent years; however, Gearing said it is seeing some improvements. From last school year to this school year, the turnover rate for general teachers rose from 14% to 15% while the turnover rate for special education teachers dropped from 8% to 6%, according to a district presentation.

“We've been fortunate in the last couple of years that we've seen an improvement in our ability to hire staff,” Gearing said. “We continue to do lots of recruitment efforts to make sure that we can find the most qualified people to meet the needs of our students.”