Special education staff increases, sign-on bonuses approved by Lake Travis ISD

Johnny Hill discussed an agenda item regarding increased special education population growth during a Feb. 19 meeting. (Amy Rae Dadamo/Community Impact Newspaper)
Johnny Hill discussed an agenda item regarding increased special education population growth during a Feb. 19 meeting. (Amy Rae Dadamo/Community Impact Newspaper)

Johnny Hill discussed an agenda item regarding increased special education population growth during a Feb. 19 meeting. (Amy Rae Dadamo/Community Impact Newspaper)

Editor's note, a previous version of this story stated the $20,000-$40,000 budget increase was for three full-time staff positions. That amount actually applies to sign-on bonuses.

Lake Travis ISD experienced an unexpected increase in its special education population during the 2019-20 school year. Staffing allocations were determined based on an estimated 12% increase, and the actual increase was closer to 29%, according to district information.


LTISD has seen annual increases in its special education population, and the department currently services about 1,081 students.

Consequently, the board of trustees unanimously approved a budget provision for the addition of three full-time or equivalent staff members for the special education department, which would be immediate hires.

Allocations for additional special education staff were approved by the board in October, yet the population’s continued growth has created the need for increased staff, according to Johnny Hill, assistant superintendent for business, financial and auxiliary services.



The exact budget implications would depend on turnover and the number of staff hired, Hill said, estimating that the total costs for sign-on bonuses could approximately range from $20,000 to $40,000. The three extra full time positions adds roughly $160,000 to the budget.

On a similar agenda item, the board approved sign-on bonuses up to $1,700 for newly hired special education staff.

Districts nationwide are experiencing shortages in special education professionals, according to information from LTISD. About 98% of U.S. school districts have reported deficits in special education staff, as stated by a study from the National Colation on Personnel Shortages in Special Education.

The sign-on bonuses were approved in an attempt to create a greater recruitment incentive for prospective hires, the district states. The largest bonus will be allocated to professional positions including special education teachers, behavior specialists, and speech and language pathologists. Paraprofessionals, which include aides, will receive a smaller bonus of $700.

“We have had vacant positions from the beginning of the year until right now,” Hill said, adding that as of the Feb. 19 meeting a total of 10 positions remain open within the special education department.


The bonus rates were compared to those of Austin ISD, which provides $1,500 for professional staff and $500 for paraprofessionals.

Hill also said the district is in the process of examining the retention rates of special education staff, a topic discussed during multiple board meetings. The information regarding staff retention will be discussed throughout the next couple of months.

The board also approved a request to established a licensed vocational nurse pay rate for summer school classes. The additional staff member would work alongside the already employed registered nurse aiding the 1,000-plus children on campus, Hill said.
By Amy Rae Dadamo
Amy Rae Dadamo is the reporter for Lake Travis-Westlake, where her work focuses on city government and education. Originally from New Jersey, Amy Rae relocated to Austin after graduating from Ramapo College of New Jersey in May 2019.


MOST RECENT

In June, the Texas Legislature passed HB 547 that would allow districts to permit homeschool students to participate in local UIL events. (Courtesy Fotolia)
Comal ISD officials: homeschool students will not participate in district UIL events this year

In June, the Texas Legislature passed HB 547 that would allow districts to permit homeschool students to participate in local UIL events. However, it is not yet clear how such a decision would affect a district's UIL classification.

Round Rock ISD released enrollment information for its virtual learning program July 29. (Brooke Sjoberg/Community Impact Newspaper)
Round Rock ISD releases virtual learning enrollment information

Round Rock ISD released enrollment information for its fall 2021 virtual learning program July 29.

Public schools cannot require students, teachers, parents, and other staff members or visitors to wear masks after June 4, Gov. Greg Abbott declared in an executive order issued May 18. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Leander ISD 'highly recommends' masks; tax-free weekend tips and more Austin-area news

Read the latest business and education news from the Central Texas area.

Sinaloan seafood restaurant El Coco Pirata is now open in Northwest Austin. (Community Impact Newspaper)
New Mexican seafood spot El Coco Pirata now open in Northwest Austin

El Coco Pirata serves classic Sinaloan seafood dishes.

Pflugerville ISD announced July 29 that it would offer a virtual learning academy to a limited number of students for the 2021-22 school year. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)
PfISD to provide limited K-12 virtual learning option using ESSER, local funding

Pflugerville ISD will offer a limited virtual learning option to its students for the 2021-22 school year.

School supplies will be exempt from the 8.25% sales tax Aug. 6-8. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
What to know before the statewide tax-free weekend Aug. 6-8

Customers will not have to pay the standard 8.25% sales tax on select clothing, footwear, school supplies and backpacks under $100.

Allstate Insurance agent Robert Elander is relocating to an office off Round Rock West Drive after serving the community from an office on Round Rock Avenue for 25 years. (Courtesy Robert Elander)
Allstate Insurance agent Robert Elander relocating office Aug. 30

A Round Rock Allstate Insurance agent is relocating his office after 25 years, effective Aug. 30.

The city of West Lake Hills could move forward with a capital improvements bond for the Nov. 2 election. (Courtesy Pexels)
November bond election supported by West Lake Hills City Council

The bond package could total $25 million and would tackle the city's critical infrastructure needs.

Public schools cannot require students, teachers, parents, and other staff members or visitors to wear masks after June 4, Gov. Greg Abbott declared in an executive order issued May 18. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Leander ISD 'highly recommends' masks for students, staff

Leander ISD updated its COVID-19 protocols this week to include green, yellow and red transmission levels. The district is at its yellow level as of July 28.

Photo of a building with solar panels on the roof
Austin Habitat for Humanity's ReStore uses discount home improvement to build communities

The store sells sustainable construction materials, clothes, appliances, jewelry, furniture and the odd novelty item.

The project will cause lane closures between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. from July 29 to mid-August. (Courtesy Austin Corridor Program Office)
Austin begins construction on pedestrian crossing signal on Burnet Road

The project will last from July 29 until mid-August and is funded by the city's 2016 mobility bond.