At the Oct. 25 board meeting, the STISD Board of Directors adopted a resolution to begin the process of declaring eligibility to become a “District of Innovation.”
The District of Innovation concept, passed by the 84th Legislative Session in House Bill 1842, gives traditional independent school districts most of the flexibilities available to Texas’ open-enrollment charter schools. To access these flexibilities, a school district must adopt an innovation plan.
A public hearing was held at the Nov. 29 board meeting to share with the Board of Directors and members of the district community and general public additional information regarding the process for developing a plan, the steps and the potential benefits.
At the same meeting, the board approved the initiation of the process and a recommendation to allow the STISD Educational Improvement Council (EIC) to serve as the committee to evaluate, develop and recommend areas for inclusion in an STISD District of Innovation plan.
Programs may include: innovative curriculum, instructional methods and provisions regarding community participation, campus governance and parental involvement; modifications to the school day or year; provisions regarding the district budget and sustainable program funding; accountability and assessment measures that exceed the requirements of state and federal law; and any other innovations prescribed by the board of directors.
An innovation plan also allows a school district to gain exemption from many Texas Education Code requirements. Allowable exemptions include, but are not limited to, the following: educator certification, teacher contracts, first and last day of school, length of the school day, class size and certain purchasing and contract requirements.
Districts are eligible for the District of Innovation designation if a district’s TEA accountability rating is "Met Standard" and the district follows certain procedures for adoption as outlined by TEA. The term of the designation as a District of Innovation may not exceed 5 years.
As reported during the Jan. 24 board meeting, the District of Innovation activities are in the planning stage. During the Jan. 9 meeting of the EIC, council members selected the planning sub-committee in which they will be working. There are five sub-committees proceeding with planning in the following areas:
- First and last day of school year
- Local CTE, fine arts, other languages, and dual credit teacher certification
- Teacher appraisal system
- Minimum attendance for class credit or final grade (blended learning)
- Teacher work days to work minutes
The sub-committees will be reviewing the options and then presenting back to the full EIC council.