Stipend plan to help Hemphill teacher troubles

Approval of a new stipend system Tuesday could aid Hays CISD leaders in attracting needed instructors to help turnaround the academically struggling Hemphill Elementary.

The Turnaround Campus Stipend Structure, approved by a 7-0 vote, would provide a $5,000 stipend for the principal at Hemphill, with $3,000 for assistant principals.

Counselors, teachers, nurses and instructional coaches would each receive $1,500. The amount was raised from a proposed $1,000 stipend.

Elaine Howard, Hays CISD chief human resources officer, said the stipends are only applicable for teachers at Hemphill and are only available for three years.

The stipends are part of Hays CISD’s plan to help turnaround Hemphill Elementary, which in 2016 was rated as an “Improvement Required” campus in the Texas Education Agency’s state accountability results.

In addition, the district has approved roughly $101,000 for a turnaround plan administrator.

Howard said the stipends are to be given due to the “extra work” that will be required by teachers who work at Hemphill during the three-year turnaround process. The stipends are to be paid at a flat rate as Howard couldn’t define the number of hours teachers could work.

Merideth Keller, Hays CISD board president, advocated for the $1,500 stipend, as opposed to a proposed $1,000.

But the district will also conduct a “simple process” to determine which teachers currently at Hemphill can be put in place for the plan.

“We fully know there are some teachers who don’t want to be there and we want to be respectful of that,” Howard said. “We know there are teachers in the district who want to go there, even eithout a stipend structure.”

Cynthia Vasquez, who was recently named by Hays CISD leaders as Hemphill’s new principal, will also meet with anyone who wishes to stay on campus and to “see if they complement the vision of what’s to come.”

Vasquez takes over for Tracie Robinson, who will be the new principal at Tom Green Elementary. Each will be allowed to take five staff members from her current campus.

Howard said both Vasquez and Robinson are meeting with stakeholders and staff members.

But Howard said the moves between Tom Green and Hemphill are not a “swap out” between the staff members.

There are “multiple people” who have placed their names on a transfer list who are in the process of seeking other positions. Howard said those who are on the transfer list are expected to interview, with the district possibly assigning a position if the prospective transferee “cannot find something on their own own.”

“This is not about a group of teachers that are low performing,” Howard said. “These are some of the hardest working teachers who are doing some of the most extraordinary things under the most extraordinary circumstances.”

But community members were concerned about the district’s approval of  Vasquez and Robinson switching roles.

Crystal Saenz said during public comment Tuesday she felt the move was “unacceptable” and questioned the board’s decision.

She added it wasn’t the first time the district has transferred an administrator from Hemphill to Tom Green.

“I’m tired of our school being a dumping ground for underperforming employees,” Saenz said.

Resident Scott Gleason urged the board to do more to assist Hemphill.

Bert Bronaugh, District 3 trustee, said Tom Green Elementary was “near and dear” to his heart.

“I don’t want to gut the school,” Bronaugh said. “That school has produced several wonderful teachers and has a wonderful heart.”

Carla Perez, a longtime district employee, said during public comment the turnaround plan sounded “good,” but she was concerned about the way the district was going to look at current staff.

She applauded the district for creating a plan that fits Hemphill’s needs.

“One size fits all no longer applies in Hays CISD,” Perez said. “That’s what we’ve been missing at Hemphill. We have different needs. We’re a high needs campus.”

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