Parents of special needs children report understaffing and high turnover rates in LTISD

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The parents of children in special needs programs at Lake Travis ISD are emphasizing the lack of resources within the growing district.

Two mothers, Amaya Mendenhall and Maya Aris, approached the LTISD board of trustees during the audience commentary section of the Sept. 18 regular board meeting.

Mendenhall, who has two sons who receive special education through the district, said the high turnover rates of special education teachers and aides are her largest concern.

“Most kids on the spectrum crave consistency and routine,” Mendenhall said. “We lost our entire team of people this year. Our special education teacher quit. Our aides were either deferred to different programs or they also quit.”

Mendenhall said while understaffing is a clear problem, she believes the district hires amazing staff members who are doing the best they can with the resources they have been given.

According to Mendenhall, one of her sons did not have an assigned special education teacher for the first five weeks of the 2019-20 school year.

Maya Aris also approached the board on behalf of district parents. “We know you’ve recently heard from the aides, but now we want you to hear from the special needs families,” she said.

A group of special education aides approached the board during a June 19 regular meeting to request a minimum salary of $20 per hour, which was ultimately denied. During the same meeting, aides received a raise of 4% off of the midpoint pay range.

James Galbraith, who has been an aide at LTISD for four years, cited turnover rates as the reason for the requested salary hikes, adding that special needs children struggle in changing environments.

LTISD does not track turnover rates for special education aides or for any other staff position, according to Marco Alvarado, director of communications and media for LTISD.

The board previously took time to acknowledge the salary concerns of special education aides during a July 18 meeting, where it was reported LTISD aides are the highest-paid on the market as compared to other districts.

“We’re paying our [level one]aides 111% compared to the state,” said Evalene Murphy, assistant superintendent of human resources.

However, turnover rates have been directly influenced by set salaries, according to Aris. “When speaking to aides about why they are leaving,” Aris said, “compensation seems to be a recurring issue.”

Mendenhall requested the board of trustees remember to advocate for the district’s special education students when drafting its budget.

No action was taken during the Sept. 18 meeting, and the board was not able to discuss or respond to the speakers as the topic was not listed on the night’s agenda.

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