According to Superintendent Dave Underwood, the district is currently looking into also building a four-plex which would bring the district up to owning 17 housing units.
“It helps the community though, as a whole, and sends a message that we care about our staff and the county cares about the educators and want to recruit and retain highly qualified people that want to work with their kids,” Underwood said. “And to me it is a huge benefit...to find housing in the Eagle Ford, it is nearly impossible.”
Three years ago the district had about three or four houses available to rent to the public. Underwood said those houses are full and there are more requests for homes to be built or purchased.
The latest addition of houses was completed on June 15 and they filled up with staff even faster than they were built. The bond that funded the $1.1 million housing addition passed in May 2012 and construction began on Sept. 27 with Wells Construction Company out of Pleasanton.
“I think it truly says something about your community,” Underwood said in regards to the bond passing. “When people live in-county they become part of the community.”
Underwood said housing has been a powerful tool for recruiting new staff and provides multiple benefits. Several of the homes are occupied by staff who are married, and have kids; thus housing two employees and adding to the district’s enrollment.
“It’s a two-fold deal,” Underwood said. “The district charges rent on the homes and gets to retain tax dollars per kid in the school. So by having students in those houses, that’s money to retain and not have recaptured (by the state).”
Rent prices vary for the district’s housing from $350 per month for the older and smaller houses on up to $750 per month for the larger and new houses. Tenants pay for their own electricity and water.
In addition to being a source of revenue for the district, the housing units also significantly cut down on commuting time for staff who would otherwise live in San Antonio or other surrounding towns where housing is more readily available.
However, commuting in McMullen County is not like commuting in other places as wrecks have increased by 275 percent in recent years.
“I think they were nervous of the traffic and want to rent here so they don’t have to be on the road when accidents are occurring,” Underwood said. “It is safer. It scares them really, scares us too.”
New Principal Joe Timms, new Assistant Principal Joel Trudeau and his wife, Monica Trudeau, who is also the new third/fourth-grade teacher, are among the staff to move into the new housing this summer.
The Trudeaus moved from Corpus Christi and into one of the three-bedroom, two-bathroom models along with their children, 7-year-old Ryan and 3-year-old Caroline.
“If there hadn’t been housing, we wouldn’t have been able to do it,” Monica said.
Joel said the housing was a factor in deciding to move to Tilden and they all feel safer having their kids play outside thanks to the privacy fence separating the housing development from the highway that cuts through town.
He also said there are a lot of other kids living in the new houses for his children to play with.
“We went to a movie in Three Rivers and asked them (the kids) if they had a good day and Ryan said ‘I love Tilden.’ (That’s) music to our ears,” Joel said.
Timms also said housing was a factor in the decision to begin his new job and move his wife and 7-year-old son, Brandon, and 3-year-old son Joseph to Tilden.
“As we continue to grow and recruit it is a huge selling point because there are just no houses,” Timms said.
Timms and the Trudeaus aren’t the only new employees at McMullen ISD; there are also Casey Soward teaching high school English, Stacy Randolph for high school math, Barry Randolph for agriculture mechanics, and Brenda Springer.
The school board will decided on the future of the four-plex once surveying is done on the six acres of land the district owns northeast of the high school track.