Few public school districts in Texas can match Comal Independent School District’s physical size and certainly fewer equaling its rapid growth — which is why it laid out the welcome mat this week to those seeking jobs with the district.
“I’ve been in accounting 17 years and looking for a clerical job,” said one hopeful, who spent 1½ hours sorting through positions, filling out applications and visiting with district staffers Thursday inside the board room at Comal ISD’s Support Services Building. “I hope I can get a job here — it would be really nice to be off in the summers.”
More than 120 people attended three job fairs this week, which Comal ISD hopes will attract people with “purpose and passion” to fill around 150 positions next school year.
The district is hiring teachers, paraprofessionals, educational support and office staffers, mechanics, electricians and HVAC technicians, and especially after-school aides, custodians and bus drivers.
“This is like everything else we do — it’s driven by growth,” Steve Stanford, the district’s executive director of communications and government relations, said of the job fairs this week at the district’s headquarters and at Bill Brown and Startzville elementary schools.
“Next year we’re opening up Pieper High School with ninth and 10th grade levels, and we’re adding a senior class to Davenport High School.”
Stanford said the fairs aren’t looking to fill positions suspended by the pandemic.
“Our projections indicate we’re adding a little over 1,000 students,” he said. “Every year there are retirements, people who leave the district, spouses who get transferred out of the district, and additional teachers coming in for the new schools.
“It’s because of growth — that’s really what’s driving it all.”
During the May board meeting, Bobbi Supak, executive director of human resources and customer service, confirmed the district’s need to add professionals.
“Our district is projected to grow by 1,120 new students in the next school year,” she said.
“As we reach approximately 27,000 students, we will need additional teachers, special education (SPED) teachers, instructional and SPED support paraprofessionals, and additional support services staff to meet the growing and changing needs of the district.”
The district has projected spending up to $9.5 million to add up to 117 positions in opening Pieper High, add grade levels at Davenport High and Hill Country College Preparatory High, and possibly add 60 more positions at campuses throughout the district.
In October, district demographer Bob Templeton said despite the pandemic, the district’s housing market had the highest amount of new home activity since 2005-06, reflected in subdivisions along U.S. 281 from Johnson Ranch through Bulverde, and along State Highway 46 east of Interstate 35.
Comal ISD’s 2015 bond ($147.4 million) created Danville and Pieper Ranch Middle Schools in 2018; its 2017 bond ($263.5 million) created Davenport High, which opened last August off Farm-to-Market Road 3009, and Pieper High, opening this August at 810 Kinder Parkway, just off U.S. 281 in San Antonio.
Templeton predicted Comal ISD would eclipse 30,000 students by 2024-25 and reach 35,669 by 2029-30 — and that’s why the district is planning a bond election this November, and two others through 2025 to add six more elementary schools, two more middle schools and a high school.
Not only that, the district is already planning for Continental Automotive Systems, Inc. to open its new $110 million 215,000-square-foot facility off Interstate 35 and Kohlenberg Road. The nearby Mayfair development is slated to add 6,000 residential units — eventually creating the need for up to four Comal ISD schools by 2040.
Most of the applicants for full-time and part-time positions live in New Braunfels, Canyon Lake, Seguin, Spring Branch, San Marcos and San Antonio. Many of the positions offer paid holidays, weekends off, flexible schedules, medical benefits and retirement plans.
Salwa Lanford, district communications specialist, said each position is posted for 10 days, with hiring process times dependent on the position. Although the district plans to immediately add at least 85 teachers, it wants more applicants for after-school area workers, custodians and bus drivers.
“We’re really needing more of them — we still have applications open,” she said.
Inside the Support Services Building’s trustees’ boardroom, site of Thursday’s fair, bus drivers Jan Miller and Theresa Blakeney were trying to recruit new drivers.
“We do get people interested but I think a lot has to do with intimidation,” Blakeney said. “When they see the big bus a lot of them don’t have confidence in themselves that they can drive a bus.
“We just had a gentleman in here earlier and he didn’t think he could do it. But by the time we were done talking to him he was ready to go apply.”
Both drivers said they didn’t think COVID-19 is scaring off applicants, who are provided ample training to earn their commercial licenses long before they get behind the wheel.
“I think the worst part (of COVID) is over,” Blakeney said. “I think the intimidation of not knowing (how to drive) is what stops a lot of people from applying.”
For more on Comal ISD’s job opportunities, visit the district website, comalisd.org.
Herald-Zeitung reporter Lisa Dreher contributed to this story.