As of Aug. 18—the day after students returned to campus for the first day of the 2022-23 school year—Leander ISD had a total of 142 vacancies across campuses, 69 of which were teacher positions.

The district has been working since July to fill as many positions as possible before the first day of school, district officials said.

“Our HR department ​​is working very hard to make sure that we get to be as close to fully staffed as we can before the school year starts,” Superintendent Bruce Gearing said in a July 19 interview. “This is going to be a more challenging year than it has been in the past. We lost more teachers this year than we have before, and so we have more positions that we have to fill.”

Although LISD was not able to fill all positions before the start of the school year, the number of vacancies, both campus and noncampus, has decreased since July. At the July 21 board meeting, the district reported 208 campus vacancies with 95 of those being teacher positions.

More teachers are resigning in the first five years of being with the district due to a number of reasons, including dissatisfaction with the profession and leaving the profession altogether, according to LISD’s teacher turnover data.

A recent survey from the Texas State Teachers Association shows that 70% of teachers were “seriously considering” quitting their job, which is a noticeable increase from 53% of teachers reportedly considering leaving the profession in 2018.

Before the 2021-22 school year, roughly 11.5% of teachers quit their jobs in the Texas public school system, according to a Texas Education Agency report. This is the highest rate since the TEA began collecting annual data in the 2007-08 school year.

Chief Human Resources Officer Karie Lynn Eggeling said staff is working diligently with the teaching and learning department for solutions on retaining teachers in the first five years.

Considering the number of vacancies, the district has managed to fill in the holes, Eggeling said. Although district data shows 23 general education teacher vacancies, she said the district is only actively working to fill 10 of them.

Most positions have been covered by utilizing current staff and securing long-term substitutes. Others are not being filled at this time due to low enrollment, according to district documents.

Additionally, the district has 34 special education teacher openings, a factor Eggeling said has “put a strain on the system.” While actively working to fill all of these positions, the department has developed an interim plan to meet students’ needs.

Noncampus vacancies—which include positions in transportation, special programs, custodial services and child nutrition—were at 402 in July, but that number decreased to 320 by mid-August.

Substitute teachers are also an “area of concern,” Eggeling said at the July 21 board meeting. As of Aug. 18, the district had 627 available substitute teachers. LISD’s goal was to have a pool of 750 substitutes by the first day of school.

“We have made great gains before students showed up, and we’ll continue to work to fill those vacancies that are remaining,” Eggeling said.

District officials said they are continuing to make progress toward filling the remaining vacancies.

The district is actively recruiting teachers and staff through university certification programs; paying employees to receive a bachelor’s degree in education with federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief, or ESSER, funds; the “Grow Your Own” teacher pipeline program; and the spirit exchange program, an international program that brings in teachers from other countries.

Additionally, the board approved a 5% salary increase at midpoint for teachers, nurses and counselors, a 4% increase at midpoint for all other eligible staff and a $15 minimum hourly rate in May in an effort to retain existing staff.

“[We’re] making sure that we can put the highest-quality educators in our system, in the right positions, to make sure that we can meet the needs of each and every individual student in our system,” Gearing said. “Both attracting those quality educators and then keeping them in the system and paying them adequately is going to be one of the most significant challenges that we have.”