Austin school board getting creative to combat high-turnover rates

The Austin Independent School District is having trouble keeping police officers on staff. In fact, this year there has been three times as many officers leaving the AISD Police Department as usual. School board trustees said this isn't only a problem with the police department.

All areas of staff are seeing a high turnover this year, but trustees said they are trying to find new ways to keep staff on board amid a competitive market.

“The number one issue centers around the issues of affordability and the fact that it costs so much to live in Austin,” said Vice President of the school board Paul Saldana

The idea is to create apartments with lower rent costs for those working for the district.             

“We’re also looking at lands the school district owns that's not being used for educational purposes to develop affordable housing for our employees so they can stay here,” said Saldana. 

This year the number of Austin ISD staff leaving the district is more troubling than previous years and AISD  police officers are working overtime or shifting beats to make up for lost employees.

“Previous years we average about 4-5 officers leaving per year. This year we've had more than that, somewhere upwards of 10-14 officers have left over the course of the year,” said Austin ISD Police Chief Eric Mendez.

Mendez said there are a few reasons why cops are choosing to transfer out of the department or sometimes the field altogether.

“Honestly, I think in today's society not that many people want to be law enforcement officers anymore,” said Mendez.

Mendez said many officers who leave AISD are transferring to other nearby law enforcement agencies that offer higher salaries.

“They’re obviously getting more money than what I can offer them and it makes a difference,” Mendez said.

Mendez said they do have several officers currently in field training to relieve those working overtime, but for two weeks there was at least one high school that had to make do with one school resource officer instead of the normal two.

“I think that we do a really good job reassigning and realigning our resources to make sure our campuses are safe every day,” Mendez said.

The district did raise salaries by 3 percent last year, and expect another 3 percent raise this year, but even that puts them on the lower end of the scale compared with nearby districts.
Austin ISD currently employs 12,000 people. On average they lose 800 teachers, 15 principals and 5 officers each year.

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