Barely more than a week after voters approved the 13-cent increase of the maintenance and operation tax rate, Waco Independent School District has filled more than half the positions created with the additional revenue.
Elaine Botello, Waco ISD’s executive director of human resources, said the district isn’t in its peak hiring season, so her department has been attending job fairs since August and hiring along the way.
“We’ve been attending job fairs just to build our applicant pool, and we’ve been very successful with that,” Botello said.
The district started hiring in August, and many of the new aides have already started work.
Waco ISD residents will see a 5-cent net increase to their school tax this year after the 13-cent M&O tax rate increase from $1.04 to $1.17 per $100 of property valuation was approved Nov. 3 and the Waco ISD board of trustees lowered the debt-service rate 8 cents, from 31 cents to 23 cents per $100 of property valuation.
The added $8.2 million in revenue for the district will pay for more than 200 positions, which are rapidly being filled.
The district created 144 literacy aide positions, and as of Nov. 11, 106 of the positions, or 74 percent, were filled, Botello said. Eight of the positions will have additional responsibilities.
Botello said the district has filled two of the six middle school reading teacher positions and 17 of the 33 RESET aide positions.
Botello said it’s been a little more difficult finding RESET teachers, because the district wants educators with some experience handling student behavior and many are already under contract with other districts.
The district has hired five out of 19 positions, or 21 percent.
“A lot of certified teachers are already tied to a district. They’re probably under contract already. We have been lucky to find a few,” Botello said.
The district also is trying to ensure the aides are prepared for the classroom before encountering students.
A highly qualified aide would have 60 hours of college credit, an associate degree or have taken a paraprofessional institute course at McLennan Community College.
After being hired, literacy aides receive additional training on the district’s discipline techniques and will be included in all of the teacher professional development courses.
Patrick Uptmore, the district’s director for professional development, said the aides’ initial training covers self-regulation techniques for both the aides and then the students.
“In working with anybody in education, first you have to learn your own self-composure,” Uptmore said. “What you have to do as an adult is first calm yourself before you can address the behavior. . . . We don’t want adults taking a situation that’s already at an emotional state and escalating that behavior.”
Gayla Reid, district reading coordinator, said the aides will sit with students during reading lessons while the teacher instructs. The aide helps monitor students to ensure they are engaged and participating. During small group instruction, the literacy aides will teach phonics.
“Every aide is receiving very explicit direction on how to use the phonics program and how to ask questions with the students and how to take that phonics lesson and (teach) students to use and apply that skill within books,” Reid said.
Our discussion focuses on a plan that would attempt to ensure all students are reading at grade level by third grade, a pivotal measure in long-term student success or failure.