VISD welcomes 160 new faculty members
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As if among old friends, Bonnie Hamby sat in a room where 159 other new teachers and staff members shuffled in for orientation.
Hamby moved to Victoria from Florida after her husband was hired as a hazmat driver for a local trucking company.
"It was actually easier for me to find a new job than it was him," Hamby said.
Hamby was hired as a reading facilitator at Hopkins Academy.
This year marks the largest number of new hires the Victoria school district has had in recent memory. Of the 160 new hires, 60 are completely new to education.
VISD is still hiring, with more than 100 positions to be filled, including teachers, support staff, nutrition specialists, custodians and bus drivers.
Dwight Harris, vice president of the Texas American Federation of Teachers Victoria chapter, said he thinks the large number of layoffs statewide have played a role in attracting new hires to Victoria.
"A lot of former teachers that were near retirement age, either retired or just changed careers, is why we've had so many openings this year," Harris said.
In addition to administrative, teaching and staff support positions, the district is still looking for bus drivers to cover three routes.
Superintendent Robert Jaklich greeted the room of teachers with a story from his teaching days.
"I was so excited," Jaklich said. "I was living the dream, and I went to school for four years to do it."
And 31 years later, Jaklich, who is also new to the district, said he is still living the dream.
Blake Newsom moved to Victoria from Denton to work as a high school licensed specialist in school psychology.
"This is my first job out of graduate school," Newsom said. "I haven't found a place to live yet, that's been the biggest challenge so far."
Newsom said he's staying in a hotel while looking for a home.
"Hopefully, it won't take too long," he said.
Newsom said he's looking forward to a short commute, but for others the trip will be longer.
Yoakum resident Lezlie Price will make a 45-minute drive to the Patti Welder Magnet Middle School campus, where she will work as a counselor.
"Patti Welder has a bad reputation, but that's OK," Price said. "I want to be able to help, if I can."
Price said moving to Victoria in the future is a possibility because her daughter lives in town.
"I'll see how it goes driving," Price said.
Jaklich said the vertical and horizontal alignment between schools will be one of his main priorities with staff this year.
"Our secondary principals are all meeting and working to improve attendance and building new strategies in different subject matters," Jaklich said.
The teachers sat in workshops most of the morning, going over the employee handbook and district policies.
In between the workshops, representatives from Edward Jones, the Texas Classroom Teacher Association, the Association of Texas Professional Educators, the Texas AFT and the Victoria Teachers Federal Credit Union waited for potential customers to stop by.
"I couldn't have asked for a better transition," Hamby said.