EDUCATION

After the Texas Education Agency found the Killeen Independent School District had failed over a seven-year period to be in compliance with federal and state special education requirements in 2015, the district paid Gibson Consulting Group of Austin $85,735 to audit its program.

Almost two years after the final draft of Gibson’s Internal Audit of Special Education for the Killeen Independent School District was submitted, a recommendation from the document is finally being implemented, according to Steve Cook, KISD’s chief human resources officer.

At last Tuesday’s KISD Board of Trustees workshop, Cook presented a proposal to hire a director of human resources.

Cook said, “We didn’t feel at the time (of the audit report) that we needed it.”

The new director would be responsible for hiring special education teachers and personnel, which would allow the two existing personnel coordinators to concentrate on secondary regular education and elementary regular education, Cook said.

“Having a dedicated person who has that knowledge base to focus on that area would speed things up to fill those vacancies,” Cook said.

KISD currently employs 961 individuals in various capacities for its special education program, according to Cook. Over 20 special education-related positions are vacant in the district. This includes 11 special education bus drivers.

John Craft, KISD superintendent, acknowledged the difficulties in hiring and retaining qualified special education personnel.

“We’re going to have to somehow change our approach in recruiting and retaining these individuals,” Craft said.

Over the past couple years, Cook said, it has grown more and more difficult to hire special education teachers.

Craft said at a previous board meeting the potential for specialists in the field of special education – such as speech therapists, physical therapists or occupational therapists – to earn higher salaries in the private sector is a large factor in not having enough qualified applicants for the district’s programs.

The proposed job description for the new director of human resources is very general in scope and includes many standard human resource functions. Applicants should have a master’s degree in personnel management, human resources or education, or an equivalent program.

“Five or more years of related experience and/or training required,” the document reads. No mention is made in the job description of applicants needing any special education experience, training or certifications.

The last line of the job description leaves the position open to change. “The foregoing statements describe the general purpose and responsibilities assigned to this job and are not an exhaustive list of all responsibilities, duties, and skills that may be required.”

Cook’s acknowledgment at the board workshop that KISD initially chose to ignore the Gibson audit’s recommendation for the human resources position is not the first time a recommendation from that audit was dismissed as unnecessary.

An executive director of special education position was hired for KISD, ignoring qualifications recommended in the audit.

“The job description for the Executive Director should be modified to contain the following experience requirements: at least five years of special education program administration/leadership experience, in a school system with 15,000 or more students; at least 10 years of experience in special education; and a mid-management certification,” according to the audit.

Janice Peronto, former principal of Cedar Valley Elementary School, was hired for the executive director position without the recommended qualifications.

“The district did not agree with this recommendation from Gibson, so there was no revision of the job description in this regard,” said Terry Abbott, KISD chief communications officer.

Of the 19 recommendations included in the Gibson audit, KISD disagreed with five of them, Abbott said.

The new director of human resources position will be included in the consent agenda at the KISD board’s Nov. 14 meeting. If approved at that time, the job will be posted on the district’s website.

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254-501-7568 | jferraro@kdhnews.com