New faces will grace Highland Park elementary schools starting in August.
The Highland Park ISD school board unanimously approved a revised policy that permits the enrollment of qualified children of non-resident, full-time professional employees.
The new policy will only apply to students in kindergarten through fourth grade for the 2018-19 school year.
Brenda West, Human Resource director for HPISD, summarized the changes before recommending the policy update to board members.
“HPISD would like to enhance the recruitment and retention methods for teachers,” she said. “This is the way our comparable districts operate. This is a very common practice around the state. As you know, HPISD has limited state funding due to recapture. This is a good way to balance that.”
West said the first year of open enrollment would add between 20 and 30 new students, or one to two new students per grade level per campus in 2018-19.
Information on how many students have been accepted and who enrolled will be available in September, West said.
One of the main factors in driving the new policy was retaining HPISD teachers. Several residents and board members noted that it would be “a shame” to lose teachers simply because their children had to attend another campus.
“Teacher recruitment is tough enough across the board,” said Jim Hitzelberger, school board president.
“It’s such a small thing to give to our teachers the ability to bring their children here.” -Lisa Faulkner
The drafted policy allows non-resident, full-time professional contracted employees, including teachers, librarians, counselors, and professional staff, to submit applications for their children to transfer into HPISD schools. Acceptance will be dependent upon on the availability of classroom seats, so as to not to interfere with class-size requirements.
“Our goal with this policy change is to help our principals attract, recruit, and retain the best-qualified candidates to teach and work with the students of Highland Park ISD,” said Superintendent Tom Trigg at a meeting in May. “There is a lot of competition right now among schools in the area to recruit top talent and we believe our students deserve to have the very best in their classrooms.”
“This policy is really about planning for the long-term,” West added. “Most school-age children have already established relationships in their own schools and communities, so we are not expecting a lot of new students as a result of this policy during the first year or two. Our research indicates that this may increase HPISD’s student population by 1-2 percent over time. The long-term benefit, however, of helping recruit and retain quality staff makes this worthy of consideration.”
Staff members would need to make an application each year for their student, per officials. The students would also need to meet certain attendance and discipline requirements to continue their enrollment.
“I totally support [the new policy],” said Lisa Faulkner, Highland Park resident. “Many teachers give up pay to be here, and they travel a long way to make this place what it is. It’s such a small thing to give to our teachers the ability to bring their children here. And it’s such a small amount of teachers that would do it anyway, I don’t think there would be any overcrowding issues at all.”