DALLAS — After years of cutting teachers from the payroll, Dallas schools are now trying to add them.
Facing a shortage of hundreds of instructors, the district says it will start recruiting for the first time in months.
"It is concerning," said Dallas Independent School District spokesman Jon Dahlander. "We’re going to have to get our gears up and going again to recruit teachers to come in and teach for us."
DISD is currently looking for nearly 350 teachers — a small percentage of the 10,000 teachers the district employs.
But the effect is being felt at campuses like W.W. Samuell High School in Pleasant Grove, which currently has 21 openings, some of which were posted on the district’s website months ago.
"Every single week you would have a substitute coming in," said 14-year-old freshman Zane Robles.
Many students said substitutes frequently handle classes like English, Spanish and math.
“My student leadership teacher left,” griped another freshman, Christopher Brown, 15. “And then we got a substitute teacher and she has been in there for a while.”
He worries the lack of a permanent teacher may affect his grades.
“I just want to make sure I get good grades,” Christopher said. “That I get my fair share.”
The district’s website lists multiple openings at many other schools, including Ann Richards Middle School, Skyline High, Ronald McNair Elementary, and Seagoville High.
“I think that’s troublesome for a lot of people,” said Rena Honea, president of the Alliance/AFT teachers union. She worries some classes have been taught by substitutes for the entire semester.
“Every parent and every educator wants a certified teacher in front of the children, because research shows those are the ones that produce the best education.”
Honea says between district layoffs and controversial changes, many teachers either were forced out... or scared off.
“People are finding this year to be difficult because of the changes that have been made before the new superintendent came, and then some of the implementation of the programs that he's wanting to implement in Dallas,” she said.
Over the past two years, Dallas schools lost nearly $100 million in state funding, forcing DISD to cut 1,400 jobs. Administrators thinned the workforce with layoffs, early resignation incentives, and the elimination of some vacant positions.
The cuts were followed by controversial moves like enlarging classroom sizes and adding 45 minutes to teachers’ workdays.
New DISD Superintendent Mike Miles arrived in the summer, promising to shake up the district and hire effective teachers.
For now, he says he’s happy with the substitutes’ work.
“I see substitutes stepping up and doing what needs to be done for kids,” Miles said. “We’re talking about retired teachers — very good at their craft — that are stepping up and helping the schools out.”
For now, administrators insist the vacancy rate is normal. But the district is recruiting for the first time in nearly 18 months, holding job fairs and reaching out to colleges.
“We’ve actually been looking to shed teachers because of the cuts we’ve had with the legislature,” Dahlander said. “Now we’re in a different time, where we need to start recruiting teachers again.”