AP NEWS

Katy ISD needs more teachers, officials tell board

March 25, 2019

An elementary school teacher in the Katy Independent School District generally has 22 students in the classroom while their junior high and high school counterparts typically have a student/teacher ratio of about 23 to 1.

To keep that ratio in the fast-growing school district, Katy ISD officials told school board members they need to hire several hundred more teachers and support staff just to keep up with growth that comes from regularly adding new school campuses.

Brian Schuss, the district’s assistant superintendent for human resources, recommended the board hire 382 what he referred to as “campus staffing units” and 153 campus support personnel. The figure is based on enrollment growth of about 2,800 students in the district, up from 2,600 the year before.

He said opening two new campuses in Katy ISD this year is a major reason for the urgent need for new teachers and support personnel.

“It’s a significant increase in staffing over last year,” Schuss said. “When you put that all together, it can be a considerable amount of staff. I think we have a good plan.”

Katy ISD Superintendent Ken Gregorski said the district’s primary staffing focus is on teachers.

“We run pretty lean or as lean as we can be administratively,” he told trustees. “Most of the ads that we do put into personnel are those campus-based positions and specifically teachers and para-educators who get into the classroom to support those kids.”

The request also include positions for 64 additional teachers and 83 support staff in Katy ISD’s special education department. District officials are projecting to have about 10,500 Katy ISD students enrolled in special education courses at the end of the 2018-19 school year and more than 10,900 by the start of the following year.

The new positions are “to help relieve our current teachers who are experiencing higher than normal caseloads,” said Gwen Coffey, Katy ISD’s director of special education compliance. “We want to ensure that we’re providing students with those quality interventions and strategies.”

Katy ISD contacts some special education personnel through the Harris County Department of Education but in many cases, Coffey said, that is not the most cost-effective solution.

“In the majority of these positions that we have looked at, it is overwhelming more expensive to do that through contracted services than to hire them,” Coffey said.

The explosive growth in Katy ISD is one reason for the increase in the number of students being admitted into special education classes. But parents are becoming increasingly more aware about the programs offered in the district, which Coffey said was a very positive development.

“We’re getting a lot more early childhood referrals and getting students into that pipeline for early intervention services,” she said.

mike.glenn@chron.com