The CAB cafeteria was full of hopeful job seekers Saturday morning at the Brownsville Independent School District’s job fair event.

The job fair was organized after the number of resignations and retirements among staff increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving the district short on hands as classes switched from physical to remote and back again.

“We have been trying to balance schedules and classes based on the staff members that we have, but we need to fill in the vacancies that we have as soon as possible,” Dr. René Gutiérrez, BISD Superintendent, said.

Hoping to fill over 100 positions, the event which ran from 8:00 a.m. until noon, addressed the district-wide staff shortage, especially in the areas of Special Education, Transportation, and teachers for the Common Core curriculum subjects like Math and Science.

Yolanda Turbeville, Principal at Peña Elementary, helps answer questions from applicants Yolanda Perez and Brooke Espinosa Saturday for the Brownsville Independent School District’s Job Fair in the CAB cafeteria. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

In the case of the Transportation Office, Director Eliud Ornelas expressed that there is an urgent need for roughly 43 bus drivers, to help get operations back on track for the district.

According to Ornelas, this problem is part of a larger national shortage of drivers that affects everything from the oil industry to the availability of taxis on the street.

“It is delaying all the routes to take the kids to school. We are packing the school buses because of that and doing double runs instead of the single runs that we used to do,” he said.

Additionally any competitive events students attend pulls drivers out of the small pool that service the day-to-day operations of the district.

Sandra Barron-Herrera, Dean of Instruction at Garcia Middle School, takes down substitute applicant Nory Gabriela Boeta’s information Saturday for the Brownsville Independent School District’s Job Fair in the CAB cafeteria. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

In order to simplify things, BISD created a streamlined process for its applicants to come in and fill out an online job application at one of the many computer stations throughout the cafeteria for the event. Once the application was done, applicants then went directly into an interview with an interview committee from that department or campus and those recommended for hire could receive their employment contract that day.

Ahead of the event, Gutiérrez received authorization from the BISD’s Board of Trustees to directly hire staff, so applicants will start their new jobs in the district shortly, pending the required background check and fingerprinting.

The district reports that by 9:30 a.m. they had already received over 150 applicants for the available positions, with a total of 242 applications submitted by the end of the event.