Peering into the crystal ball: Seven predictions for HR in 2016–17

by Amy Campbell

“Prediction is very difficult, especially if it's about the future.” – Niels Bohr, Nobel laureate physicist

While predicting the future sounds like the stuff of horoscopes and psychics, anticipating what’s headed our way can help us be prepared for the possible challenges. What’s in store for HR in 2016–17? Let’s take a look into our crystal ball….

1. T-TESS implementation

Beginning July 1, all school districts in the state were required to implement a new educator evaluation system – either the state-recommended Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS, for short), or a locally developed system that shares T-TESS characteristics. More than 200 districts have been piloting T-TESS for the past two years, so implementation for almost a quarter of the state’s districts has been gradually phased in. But, for those districts just kicking off the new system this year, a major culture shift is underway.

While feedback from the T-TESS pilot districts has been overwhelmingly positive, they’ve shared that implementation has come with its challenges. Some things districts will need to consider with implementation include:
  • Appraisers will need to spend more time evaluating teachers under T-TESS—estimates range from four to eight hours per teacher, compared to the one to three hours required under the Professional Development and Appraisal System (PDAS).
  • Districts may choose to add staff to support campus administrators, given the additional appraisal time requirements.
  • Districts may choose to add technology to support the new observation and evaluation processes.
  • If districts choose to add staff or technology, budget impacts are likely. In subsequent years, additional appraiser training will carry a cost, as well.
How to prepare:

The big takeaway from pilot districts is that moving to T-TESS is a major culture shift. District staff will feel uncomfortable with this monumental change, and HR staff and other district leaders will undoubtedly hear grumblings about their discomfort. The message from pilot districts has been “stick with it—it gets better,” and for many pilot districts, things “got better” by spring of their first year of implementation. As educators become comfortable with the new system, their discomfort will ebb and eventually disappear. HR staff can assist with this transition by communicating with teachers about performance expectations regularly, identifying ways to support campus administrators with their additional appraisal workload, and helping facilitate an understanding districtwide that T-TESS is a significant improvement in supporting teacher development and growth. 

2. FLSA changes

It’s probably no surprise by now that big changes are on tap for the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Effective December 1, the minimum salary threshold for exempt status will increase to $913 per week, or $47,476 for a year-round employee. More details about the changes were provided in an HR Exchange special issue in June 2016.
How to prepare:

By now, many districts will have reviewed the pay of exempt employees to determine whether their pay rate will meet the minimum salary threshold when it increases on December 1. Districts that have not yet reviewed pay should do so in the coming weeks and be prepared to take action to implement changes by December. To support district staff understanding of the changes, TASB HR Services has two recorded webinars available at no cost to members. We will continue to release guidance and additional resources leading up to December 1, so keep an eye out for additional resources in HR Exchange and the HR Library.

3. Loss of ASATR funding and other financial woes

School finance problems are a perennial topic at the Texas Legislature, and the upcoming session will be no different. Districts continually struggle with funding issues, but this year seems to be particularly tough for districts that have been receiving Additional State Aid for Tax Reduction (ASATR) from the state. The amount of ASATR funding districts receive has been declining from a high of $5.7 billion in 2007–08 to this year’s $251 million, and the number of districts receiving the funding has been declining since 2006–07—from a high of 1,217 districts to only 192 this year. In the 2017–18 school year, ASATR funding is set to disappear entirely, so districts that have relied on those funds are having to find other ways to balance their budgets.

Additionally, the more than 600 districts that filed a lawsuit back in 2011 challenging the state’s school funding formula were disappointed when the Texas Supreme Court ruled the state school funding system constitutional earlier this year. While the justices said the system needs to be revamped, they stopped short of requiring lawmakers to take action to improve the system this session, as districts had hoped. Legislators are expected to tackle the issue in the session kicking off in January 2017, but relief could be a long time coming.

How to prepare:

Unfortunately, there’s not much that can be done, at this point. Districts can focus on being strategic in their compensation and staffing decisions, but it’s really a waiting game until the legislature can provide some relief. 

4. Certification changes

There have been several recent changes to State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) rules that will impact HR moving into the 2016–17 school year. Some of the bigger changes include:
  • No Child Left Behind (NCLB) requirements will not be in effect for 2016–17, so districts now only have to meet state requirements for teacher certification (i.e., current SBEC rules). However, paraprofessionals still must meet the highly qualified requirements of NCLB for 2016–17.
  • Current or former members of the U.S. military who seek a Trades and Industry certificate are now able to use experience in a specific trade gained during their military service to satisfy the requirement of holding a license or other professional credential for that trade. The military experience provision may encourage more current and former military to pursue teaching as a post-armed services career.
  • People seeking certification may not retake an examination more than four times, unless SBEC waives the limitation for good cause. Additionally, the Generalist EC-6 (Test 191) and Core Subjects EC-6 (Test 291) examinations are different tests and are not combined in the retake policy. Also, each administration/test date of the Core Subjects or portions of the Core Subjects count as an attempt. These new test limitations may make it substantially more difficult for some individuals to become certified.
  • School boards may now issue a school district teaching permit for non-core academic career and technical education areas based on qualifications certified by the superintendent of the district. This new freedom can allow for speedier certification of CTE teachers by avoiding the lengthier SBEC processes.
  • SB 1309 of the 84th Legislative Session created an optional JROTC teacher standard certificate that would allow an ROTC instructor to achieve a standard certificate, thus eliminating the need to annually seek an emergency ROTC permit.

How to prepare:

These certification changes are a mixed bag for district HR staff. Some may assist recruitment efforts, such as the district-issued teaching permit for CTE courses, but others, like the certification test limits, may make life more difficult. Being aware of the rules changes is certainly critical, and organizations like the Texas Association of School Personnel Administrators (TASPA) are available to provide expert guidance and assistance. And, of course, compliance is key.

5. Increased student protections from inappropriate behavior from school employees

The number of inappropriate relationships between students and educators in Texas has steadily increased over the past few years, and lawmakers are taking notice. The legislature is expected to take up the issue again in the upcoming session. Some actions that could be taken include:
  • Expanding sanctions to principals, not just superintendents;
  • Restricting districts from reaching settlement agreements with employees that keep information confidential;
  • Requiring educator preparation programs to provide training to participants on inappropriate behavior and ethics;
  • Developing language that promotes sharing of honest references between districts;
  • Providing districts with automatic notification of certification sanctions; and
  • Increasing requirements for employees to report a broader range of suspected incidents.

How to prepare:

There’s nothing specific required of districts at this point, but HR staff should be aware of legislative actions related to educator misconduct, as they may place additional requirements on HR and district staff.

6. Worsening shortage of teachers in hard-to-fill areas

Texas has certified bilingual as a teacher shortage area every year since 1990–91, and math and science have been certified annually since 1993–94, so it’s no surprise that we’re still suffering from shortages in these areas heading into the 2016–17 school year. And the shortage is only getting worse as enrollment grows. We’ve seen a more than 47 percent increase in English Language Learner students, and a 19 percent increase in total student enrollment statewide in the past 10 years. More students means more teachers are needed in these hard-to-fill areas.

While the number of teachers gaining certification is increasing, the supply isn’t keeping up with school district demands, meaning districts are still struggling to fill vacancies.

How to prepare:

Most research shows that the highest quality teachers usually are tagged by districts earlier in the hiring season, so districts with vacancies in this hard-to-fill areas should focus on hiring in January through April, rather than May through July. To best compete with their peer districts in the limited talent pool, districts should review their recruitment processes and identify and remove impediments to filling vacancies early.

More than 90 percent of districts with at least 3,000 students pay a critical shortage area stipend. Math and science stipends are the most commonly paid, but districts generally pay more for bilingual stipends. The number of districts paying these stipends, and the values of the stipends themselves, have been increasing over the past several years. To remain competitive, districts should review both the stipends they’re paying and their teacher pay rates against their market peer districts and be willing to make adjustments to match or exceed market values.

7. TRS-Care and TRS-ActiveCare changes

Moving to our final prediction—In the 2015 legislative session, HB 2974 created a legislative joint interim committee to study TRS-Care and TRS-ActiveCare. The committee has already held two meetings this year—one in March on TRS-Care and one in April on ActiveCare—to review and consider reforms to the current TRS insurance programs. State and minimum district contributions for ActiveCare haven’t changed since the program was created in 2003, and the employee share of health care premiums has doubled from 30 percent to more than 60 percent in the past 12 years.

In 2014, TRS conducted an affordability and sustainability study that resulted in a dozen options for change, ranging from full funding from the state to eliminating uniform, statewide coverage. As the joint interim committee continues its work, legislators have reportedly said fixing TRS-Care and TRS-ActiveCare is a priority this session, and some sort of corrective action by the legislature is expected this school year.

How to prepare:

There is nothing specific TRS-ActiveCare districts have to do to prepare, other than remain aware of legislative progress toward change this year. However, district HR staff certainly can advocate for improvement of TRS health care programs at the state level, either individually or through state associations to which they belong. 


Frequently asked questions about the FLSA rules changes


1. Why were the rules changed?

President Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum on March 13, 2014, directing the Department of Labor (DOL) to update and modernize the regulations defining which white collar workers are protected by the FLSA's minimum wage and overtime standards. The DOL believes that the current salary level is outdated and is no longer effective in separating salaried, white collar employees who should get overtime pay for working extra hours from those who should be exempt. 

2. What do the rules change?

There are three changes:

1) The minimum salary required for exemption was increased from $455 per week ($23,660 for 52 weeks) to $913 per week ($47,476 for 52 weeks). If a currently exempt employee earns less than $913 per week, the employee will now be eligible for overtime and subject to the same timekeeping and other requirements as other nonexempt employees.
2) The minimum salary for highly compensated employees increased from $100,000 to $134,004 per year.
3) The minimum salary threshold will be recalculated every three years without going through proposed rulemaking requirements.

3. Which employees are impacted by the change?

The rule change impacts exempt administrators and professionals who earn less than $913 per week. This includes registered nurses, physical therapists, speech-language pathologists, diagnosticians, accountants, supervisors, and other non-teaching professionals.

Educational administrators, such as academic counselors, curriculum coordinators, assistant principals, and principals may also be impacted. However, these positions are subject to a different salary threshold. They must earn $913 per week or the same as an entry-level teacher in your district, whichever is least.

The change does not impact teachers. Teachers are currently exempt from the minimum salary requirements and that did not change with the new rules.

Clerical, paraprofessional, and auxiliary workers are already nonexempt and the new rules do not impact them.
4. What is the effective date of the change?

The change is effective December 1, 2016.

Exemption Status

5. How do I know if an employee is exempt?

Exempt employees must be paid a salary of $913 per week and meet all the criteria of one of the duties tests (e.g., executive, administrative, professional, computer professional) as stated in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). If they do not meet either the salary threshold or the duties test, they are nonexempt and are entitled to overtime pay or compensatory time when they work more than 40 hours in a seven-consecutive-day workweek. The criteria for the duties tests are here.

6. Did the duties tests change?

No, the duties tests did not change. Only the minimum salary threshold changed.

7. Most districts calculate annual pay starting on a daily rate basis. Is there a minimum daily rate required for exemption?

No. Although districts frequently use daily rates to determine employee annual pay, the DOL will only consider the amount of pay earned per week. Weekly pay is the shortest period of payment that may be used to determine if the salary threshold is met.

8. How do we determine if 10- and 11-month employees meet the salary threshold when salaries are paid over 12 months?

The DOL considers the amount of pay earned per week, not the amount distributed in the paycheck. The annual salary should be divided by the actual weeks worked to determine if the employee meets the $913 threshold. Any week in which work is performed should be counted, even if it is only one day during the week. 

9. If an employee meets the professional exemption but earns less than $913 per week are they entitled to overtime?

Yes, they must meet both the minimum salary threshold and all the criteria of one of the duties tests (executive, administrative, professional, computer professional). If they are not paid a salary of $913 per week, they are nonexempt. Districts will be required to maintain accurate time records and pay overtime or compensatory time if they work more than 40 hours in a seven-consecutive-day workweek.

10. Will part-time professionals, such as occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, and other licensed professionals, be eligible for overtime if they earn less than $913 per week?

Yes, the $913 per week minimum salary cannot be prorated for part-time workers. Employees must earn $913 per week in order to be exempt from FLSA requirements, regardless how many days per week they work.
11. If two exempt employees who are not teachers job share and their combined pay is more than $913 per week can they still be exempt?

No, each employee must earn $913 per week. For example, Luz and Ann are registered nurses and job share at the elementary school. They each earn $475 per week. Neither is paid the minimum of $913 per week, so both of them will be nonexempt and eligible for overtime if they work more than 40 hours in a seven-consecutive-day workweek.

12. Would an exempt employee who earns more than the annual salary threshold remain exempt?

Yes, however, they must also meet all the criteria of one of the duties tests (executive, administrative, professional, computer professional).

13. If the beginning teacher salary is less than $913 per week, would a Licensed Specialist in School Psychology (LSSP) have to earn $913 per week?

Yes, LSSPs do not meet the definition of an educational administrator. As such, they are subject to the $913 per week minimum salary threshold.

14. Are special education co-op or grant-funded employees impacted by the rules change?

Yes, funding source does not affect the exemption status of an employee. They must earn $913 per week and meet the duties test to be exempt. If the employee is an educational administrator, the salary must be at least the same as an entry-level teacher in your district.

15. We have a Child Nutrition Director employed by contract and her pay does not meet the minimum salary threshold. Is she still exempt?

Being employed by contract has no impact on FLSA exemption status. An employee must earn at least $913 per week and meet the criteria of one of the duties tests (executive, administrative, professional, computer professional) to be classified as exempt.

16. Are retired-rehired employees who are not classroom teachers subject to this rule change?

Yes, all exempt employees must earn at least $913 per week. Status as a retired-rehired employee does not have any impact on FLSA exemption status.

17. Does the teacher exemption still apply if the teacher is a retiree working less than half time?

Yes, it doesn’t matter if a teacher is working half time or a retiree. If they are a teacher, they are exempt.

18. If a teacher also drives a bus, is the teacher still exempt from the minimum salary threshold requirement?

Yes, if an employee’s primary duty is teaching, he or she is exempt from the salary requirement.

19. Are Band Directors subject to the rules change?

Band Directors would qualify under the teacher exemption and are not subject to the rules change.

Implementing Changes

20. The district has several exempt employees who do not earn $913 per week. What do we need to do to comply with the new rules?

The district has two choices:

1) Increase the employees’ pay to $913 per week and ensure they meet the criteria of one of the duties test.

2) Make them nonexempt and treat them like other nonexempt employees, including keeping accurate time records and paying overtime or compensatory time if they work more than 40 hours in a seven-consecutive-day workweek.

This decision may be driven by the potential additional costs to the district. If an employee’s pay is currently close to the salary threshold, the cost increase might be minimal. However, if the employees are making considerably less than $913 per week, the district may choose to make them nonexempt.

21. If we are going to change an employee from exempt to nonexempt status, should we make it effective at the beginning of the fiscal year?

This is a local decision. You can make the change any time as long as it is made by December 1, 2016.

22. How do I calculate the potential cost increase of paying overtime?

First, visit with the employee and manager to estimate the number of hours worked over 40 in the district’s seven-consecutive-day workweek as defined in Policy DEAB (LOCAL). Then, calculate the cost of paying time and one-half of their regular rate on those hours.

23. How do we know how many weeks employees work?

You will need to look at the starting and ending dates of all duty schedules and count any week where work is performed, even if it’s only one day. For example, if a 195-day duty schedule starts on a Tuesday in August and ends on a Monday in June, both the first and last week count as full workweeks, even if only a few days were worked in each week.

24. Do we have to include summer school when counting workweeks?

Yes, for each employee, any week where work is performed—including summer school—should be counted, even if it is only one day.

25. Do we need to count spring break and winter break as workweeks?

Our conservative advice is to count these weeks if there is any possibility that work might be performed. Opening and checking e-mail, responding to phone calls, or coming in to the office to “catch up” is considered work, and the week in which it occurs should be counted as a workweek.

26. We will have exempt and nonexempt employees in the same job title. Is that acceptable under the FLSA?

Yes. The nonexempt employees are subject to the timekeeping requirements and eligible for overtime if they work more than 40 hours in a seven-day workweek. The exempt employees are not required to keep track of their time and are not eligible for overtime pay.

27. Are timeclocks required for nonexempt employees?

No. The DOL requires employers to maintain accurate time records for all nonexempt employees. The DOL does not mandate the method of maintaining the records, such as timeclocks, but the records must be accurate.

How districts are promoting wellness in the workplace

by Zach DiSchiano

Eat fruits and vegetables. Drink more water. Stress less.

These may sound like bits of advice you heard from your parents, but they’re actually competitive challenges initiated by Pasadena ISD in hopes of supporting a healthier workforce. For the majority of the school year, teachers and staff actively participate in a multitude of health-related contests in hopes of winning prizes and improving their overall wellness.

For example, PISD started a “Drink More Water Challenge” in which staff members were encouraged to drink eight or more glasses of water for two consecutive weeks. You can view the tracking sheet they use here.

PISD also has a Spring Volleyball League open to district employees and spouses. These events and competitions provide various rewards to staff members for pursuing a healthier lifestyle, and also help convey to the employees how seriously the district takes their physical and mental well-being. PISD was named a “Best Place to Work” by the Houston Chronicle last year, and by looking at the measures they take to ensure the welfare of the staff, it’s not hard to see why.

PISD is just one district where employee health is made a major priority. In Austin ISD, the district’s “E-Wellness” website offers resources and tools for employees to live healthier. AISD employees are given discounts on gyms like 24 Hour Fitness, LA Fitness, and YMCA. They also get reduced pricing on yoga and other exercise classes.

El Paso ISD has a list of the top-10 staff wellness activities for schools to implement on their campuses. Some of these activities include fitness challenges similar to the ones at Pasadena ISD, but they also have other ideas like hosting a race that supports a cause, starting a healthy recipe contest, and planning a health fair.

Many districts, such as Plano ISD, have a web page dedicated to staff wellness that feature resources for employees independently working on improving their health. Some districts just have links to other government websites focused solely on how to eat right or other specific health information.

As new generations cycle through the education workforce, it is important to recognize what they value most. Studies show that millennials are not motivated by money, but by workplace culture. Placing an emphasis on the well-being of teachers and other staff could impact the perception of your district in a positive way and help with recruiting and retention.

Click the links above for some ideas on how to promote wellness in your district.


HR Extras

Teacher shortage areas released

Teacher shortage areas are submitted annually by the Texas Education Agency and approved by the United States Department of Education.
The approved shortage areas give administrators the ability to recruit and retain qualified teachers and to help reward teachers for their hard work using the loan forgiveness opportunities. District staff can certify that a teacher has met the minimum qualifications required for certain loan forgiveness programs.
Shortage Area 2016–17 2015–16 2014–15 2013–14 2012–13
Bilingual/English as a Second Language X X X X X
Career and Technical Education X X X    
Computer Science X X X X  
Languages Other Than English (Foreign Language)       X X
English as a Second Language   X X    
Technology Applications X        
Mathematics X X X X X
Science X X X X X
Special Education X X X X X

Poll results for issuing teaching permits for noncore CTE courses

HR Services conducted a short survey in May 2016 to find out if school districts plan to use the local teaching permits option (Texas Education Code §21.055) to hire teachers for “noncore academic career and technical education (CTE) courses.” As background, the Texas Legislature passed H.B. 2205 in its most recent session, amending the law to allow school boards to issue a teaching permit without approval by the commissioner of education.
Among 256 responding public Texas school districts, 64 percent (165 districts) do not plan to use the permit option for 2016‒17. For districts that do plan to hire noncore teachers, health science, welding, and cosmetology were the most commonly reported noncore CTE areas. Most districts plan to accept any combination of subject-matter expertise such as work experience, formal training and education, or relevant industry credential.
More than half of districts (54 percent) will not require additional continuing education for the individuals outside of state-required classroom management training. Other districts indicated that local staff professional development or teacher training will be required.

“Take 5” to motivate your team

Human motivation is quite possibly one of the most intriguing, and puzzling, areas of the social sciences. Wikipedia’s contributors aptly describe motivation as being a cycle in which thoughts influence behaviors, behaviors drive performance, performance affects thoughts, and the cycle begins again. Each stage of the cycle is composed of many dimensions including attitudes, beliefs, intentions, effort, and withdrawal, which can all affect the motivation that an individual experiences. That being said, despite the explosion of research over the last two decades focusing on the presumptive generational differences that would lead us to believe that people born just a few years apart are really completely different animals, several common motivational factors seem to be at play for most, if not all, of the generations currently in the workforce.

Autonomy—Employees enjoy systems that allow them some leeway when it comes to what, how, when, where, and with whom they do things.

Transparency—Very similar to another key motivator, trust, transparency helps employees connect their job to the company’s goals.

Appreciation—Recognition of achievements doesn’t have to be financial to be impactful. Saying “thank you” or “good job” when the situation warrants it goes a long way.

Sympathetic help for personal problems—Being sincere and making time for your team members is crucial to true leadership. Don’t forget to follow up for updates if appropriate.

Feedback—Whether positive or a “teachable moment,” at the individual level, employees generally value any type of feedback over none at all. In the case of the latter, a secondary group benefit is that teams know who isn’t pulling their weight. Working to solve the problem will ultimately benefit all.

Hiring is up, but are graduates prepared?

This year’s college graduates have something to look forward to this year that graduates for the last decade have not—more jobs. 

A recent national survey conducted by CareerBuilder shows that 66% of employers plan to hire from the new graduate pool, with more than half of these employers planning to offer jobs before the graduates even walk across the stage. The improving economy and rising number of retirements are cited as two reasons the outlook may be better for this year’s graduating class. 

However, some employers expressed that new college grads aren’t always prepared to enter the workforce, with 24% of respondents indicating that academic institutions are not adequately preparing college grads for the workplace—a drastic 21% increase from last year’s responses.

Survey respondents indicate that the shortcomings of academic preparation include interpersonal/people skills, problem-solving skills, lack of skills in leadership, teamwork and written and oral communication. The results of a Futurestep survey found that most executives indicated that the top two qualities they desire in new graduates are the ability to learn from experiences and apply those learnings and business acumen followed closely by drive and cultural fit. 

So, who’s getting hired? The CareerBuilder survey identified the most in-demand majors.


Inside HR Services

Calendar and registration for 2016–17 training is available

The schedule for our Austin training sessions and webinars has been posted on the HR Services training web page. Registration for these events is available so you can plan your HR professional development for the upcoming year. 

Beginning September 1, all webinars will be available at no cost to HR Services members. This includes live and recorded sessions.

Registration is required. Our 2016–17 schedule includes three new webinars and more may be added throughout the year. Additional information is available on our webinar page.

2016‒17 Superintendent Salary Survey launched

Attention superintendents! Be sure to submit your TASB/TASA Superintendent Salary Survey by Aug. 26. The survey is the leading source of data for compensation and benefits of Texas’ top school executives. Your participation ensures you can use your data in DataCentral to create custom 2016–17 market comparison reports.

Coming soon: District Personnel Salary Survey 2016-17. Program and salary survey contacts will receive an e-mail invitation on Sept. 1. The annual survey covers teacher pay and teaching field stipends, as well as more than 120 benchmark jobs commonly found in Texas public school districts.

Contact us at 800.580.7782 or if you have any questions about the surveys.

August marks 1-year anniversary on Twitter for TASB HR Services

As technology progresses at an accelerated rate and the dynamic needs of our members continue to evolve, it is important for us to keep pace and provide the highest quality assistance to Texas districts. That’s why we decided to leap into the bustling social media scene and create a Twitter account last year. Now 12 months into our endeavor, we’ve amassed a following of more than 500 educators, superintendents, administrators, HR professionals, and others interested in the news and proceedings of HR in school districts around the state.

If you haven’t checked out our page yet, give us a follow at @tasbhrs. Our content focuses more on the day-to-day news and events affecting school districts as well as best practices and guidance for those seeking information in time-sensitive situations. We’d also like to express our gratitude for those already supporting us—it’s because of you we made it this far!

Karen Dooley joins HR Services

Please join us in welcoming Karen Dooley to the HR Services consulting team. Karen will assist with staffing and HR reviews, training, and other HR projects. Karen is a seasoned administrator with more 17 years of HR experience in central Texas districts. She also worked as an assistant principal, counselor, and teacher. Karen received her master’s degree from Prairie View A&M University and her bachelor’s degree from Texas State University.