July 5, 2008

HISD to Offer Stipends to Bilingual, Math Teachers

By Kristin Edwards, The Huntsville Item, Texas

Jul. 5--The Huntsville Independent School District is currently offering $3,000 stipends to applicants for teaching positions as either secondary math teachers or elementary bilingual teachers.

According to HISD Superintendent Richard Montgomery, the goal of offering the stipends is to attract quality instructors to the district in those specific categories and, hopefully, to keep them employed in following years.

"Last year was actually the first time we offered stipends for our secondary math teachers, and we feel like it made a difference in our ability to hire a good number of people into the secondary math positions we had open," he said. "Since secondary math is one of the identified shortage areas in the state, most districts in Texas are providing some kind of incentive for math teachers at this point, and the same is also true for elementary-level bilingual teachers.

"However, this is the first year in a while where we've had several openings for elementary-level bilingual teachers, so we're offering this stipend for the first time this year in order to be competitive with other districts in that respect, as well."

According to Marjetta Spriggs, HISD administrator, the stipend for bilingual teachers at the elementary level was added because of the presence of approximately five elementary-level, bilingual openings.

"This year, we have a shortage of bilingual elementary teachers, and in order to attract those applicants to HISD, we added the $3,000 stipend for that group of teachers this year," she said. "This is the first time we have offered this stipend to bilingual, elementary-level teachers because, up until this year, we have been able to fill those positions.

"However, this year, we have had people leave and we've added more positions because of more bilingual students in the district. Basically, we need more bilingual teachers, and right now we don't have a whole lot more applicants."

According to Regina Ginsel, HISD human resources director, it is very difficult to attract qualified applicants to elementary bilingual positions.

"We have not received as many applications as we would like because bilingual education is a very specialized area," she said. "There are very few applicants who have the credentials required to fulfill these positions, especially since one of the positions we fill will have to be with someone who is both bilingual and elementary certified."

Ginsel said the hope in offering the stipend was for qualified applicants to first be interested in coming to HISD.

"We definitely need bilingual teachers at the elementary level to apply, and we've got jobs waiting for them and a $3,000 stipend for them," she said. "We hope offering this stipend is going to be a way to start a conversation with people and get them interested in coming to Huntsville.

"We want a chance to attract these teachers to us and to show them what a great district this is."

According to Ginsel, only two of the 11 math instructor positions at Huntsville High School are currently open, and more than 25 applications for the positions have been received.

"We were absolutely successful hiring secondary math teachers last year because of the stipend, and we were hoping for the same this year," she said. "HHS principal Colleen McMillian is in the process of going through all of the applications we received, and in all likelihood, we should be able to have the remaining vacant positions filled by next school year."

Montgomery said the district had great success in attracting applicants by offering the stipends to secondary math teachers last year.

"I believe, at one point last year, we were needing about eight or nine math teachers and a lesser number of middle school math teacher, but we were able to fill all of those positions," he said. "What indicated to us that it worked was that we had a significant number of applications, and we were able to choose the applicants who were most qualified and get those positions filled.

"Basically, we had more applicants than we needed after that stipend was posted."

According to Spriggs, both new applicants for secondary math and elementary bilingual positions and those teachers already in those positions will receive the $3,000 stipend.

"Not only will new teachers receive this money, but current teachers in those positions will also get that money," she said. "It's allocated into their monthly salary, meaning it will be divided out over their contracts each calendar year."

The stipends will be paid for both by a state-funded allotment to HHS and from the district's general fund budget, Montgomery said.

"We're still in the process of putting the whole budget together, which means we'll have to make adjustments in order to offer these stipends," he said. "However, our plan is and has always been to provide pay increases for our entire teaching staff in addition to these stipends. We're going to be spending the summer months looking at several scenarios on how that would happen."


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