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District of Innovation

2022-2027 District of Innovation (DOI) Plan

The ϲ Board of Trustees approved District of Innovation (DOI) plan on April 21st, 2022. It will be in place through April 21st, 2027.

What is District of Innovation?

The District of Innovation (DOI) process allows public school districts to exempt certain elements of the Texas Education Code (TEC) in order to meet innovative needs of students. ϲ first utilized the DOI designation in August of 2016. The original plan has expired and the District is moving forward with a new updated plan for 2022-2027.

 

DOI Timeline

  • November 2, 2021 – District Level Committee (DLC) signs petition in support of creation of new DOI plan
  • December 16, 2021 – Board of Trustees passes motion directing the DLC to develop a new plan within the parameters of First Day of Instruction/Last Day of Instruction and Teacher Mentor provisions
  • January 10, 2022 – DLC meets to discuss and develop new DOI plan within set parameters
  • January 15, through February 15, 2022 –? DOI plan is posted for public review
  • April 21, 2022 – Board of Trustee adopted DOI plan

DOI Plan for 2022-2027

First Day of Instruction and Last Day of Instruction

Exemption: TEC 25.08I1 and 25.0812

Challenges Addressed:

  • Statutes prevent the District from designing calendars that best meet students needs. The District could create a calendar that meets the needs of our high school students who take in June and for our students needing to benefit from June summer school by ending the school year before Memorial Day. The District could also offer more and provide students with more and with this exemption.
  • Without a DOI exemption, the first day of instruction must take place after the fourth Monday of August.

Teacher Mentors

Exemption: TEC 21.458

Challenges Addressed:

  • Statute requires mentors to have three or more years of experience. This limits the number of teachers who are allowed to serve as mentors and restricts teachers with exceptional skill or experience in a specialized subject matter from serving as a mentor.
  • This exemption is only rarely utilized when flexibility is required for teachers in limited/specialized subject areas to learn from a mentor with job-alike experiences.

Amendment #1 – 2024-2027

Teacher Certification and Field-Based Experience Requirements

Exemption TEC 21.003 and TEC 21.051 Certification and Required Field-Based Experience

Challenges Addressed:
The teacher certification requirements enacted in these statutes inhibit the Districts ability to hire highly-skilled individuals to teach dual credit and career and technical education courses, as well as courses taught in languages other than English. The availability of teachers who are certified to teach these courses are limited, which caused the District to limit course offerings in these areas.

Plan of Action:
Recruit and hire teachers that demonstrate and articulate value in continuous professional learning and improvement.
Expand course offerings that provide greater options and more flexibility for students.
Ensure that access to academic-style learning is available for all.

Amendment #2 – 2024-2027

Minimum Service Required

Exemption Texas Education Code 21.401.
MINIMUM SERVICE REQUIRED

Challenges Addressed:
This amendment to the plan gives the district the flexibility to reduce educator contract service days from 187 to no less than 185 with no effect on educator salaries. This reduction in service days at the current salary schedule would make our positions more competitive. For purposes of this amendment to the plan, all other staff will have the number of work days reduced by the same number of days.

Plan of Action:
1.This plan should enhance educator recruitment and retention.
2. The 187 contract service days will not fall below 185 service days during each contract year.
3. In each year of the plan, it will be part of the calendar planning process to try to maintain the reduced number of educator contract days if economically and functionally feasible.

What is a District of Innovation?

The District of Innovation concept is part of , passed during the 84th?Legislative Session in 2014, and allows traditional school districts the opportunity to utilize?flexible operation strategies similar to open?-enrollment charter schools.

Questions & Answers

What is a District of Innovation?

The District of Innovation concept was passed into law by the 84th Legislative Session in House?Bill 1842, which created

The law allows traditional independent school districts to access most of the flexibilities?available to Texas open enrollment charter schools. To access these flexibilities, a school?district must adopt an innovation plan, as set forth in Chapter 12A.

What school districts are eligible to be Districts of Innovation?

To be eligible for designation as a District of Innovation, a school districts most recent?academic performance rating must be at least acceptable.

Why would a school district choose to pursue this option?

A local school district may want to pursue specific innovations in curriculum, instruction,?governance, parent or community involvement, school calendar, budgeting, or other ideas. An?innovation plan also allows a school district to gain exemption from many Texas Education Code?requirements.

Essentially, innovation plans will be about local control. Each district will pursue designation as?a District of Innovation for different reasons, and no two plans may look the same. Community?members should note that each innovation plan will be unique to the local school district. The?experiences of other school districts may be informative, but may not directly relate to the?purpose or progress of a plan in another location.

What legal requirements could a school district avoid by becoming a District of Innovation?

A District of Innovation may adopt a plan that includes exemptions from most of the same state?laws that are not applicable to open enrollment school districts. These laws could include:

  • Site\based decision making processes (to the extent required by state law),
  • Uniform school start date,
  • Minimum minutes of instruction,
  • Class size ratio,
  • The 90 percent attendance rule (but compulsory attendance still applies),
  • Student discipline provisions (with some key exceptions, like the requirement to have a code of conduct and restrictions on restraint and seclusion),
  • Teacher certification (except as required by federal law),
  • Teacher contracts,
  • Teacher benefits, including state minimum salary schedule, duty\free lunch, and planning periods and
  • Teacher appraisal system.
What legal requirements will continue to apply to all school districts, including Districts of Innovation?

An innovation plan cannot seek exemption from a state or federal requirement applicable to open enrollment charter schools, certain parts of Chapter 11, state requirements for curriculum and? graduation, and academic and financial accountability. Laws from which a District of Innovation cannot be exempt include statutes regarding:

  • Elected boards of trustees,
  • Powers and duties of school boards, superintendents, and principals,
  • Public Education Information Management System (PEIMS),
  • Criminal history record checks and educator misconduct reporting,
  • ,
  • ,
  • ,
  • ,
  • Academic accountability, including student assessments,
  • ,
  • Open meetings,
  • ,
  • Public purchasing under the Texas Local Government Code and conflicts of interest,
  • Nepotism and
  • Other state and federal laws outside of the Texas Education Code. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has proposed rules, described below, that include a detailed?list of the statutes from which a District of Innovation cannot claim an exemption.
Will innovation plans have to be approved by the Texas Education Agency?

No, but TEA has rulemaking authority regarding the implementation of Districts of Innovation.?Proposed rules were posted online on April 1, 2016, and TEA scheduled a public hearing?regarding the proposed rules on April 25, 2016. As described in more detail in the proposed?rules, a district that has proposed an innovation plan is required to notify TEA, and TEA is?required to maintain information about the statutory exemptions adopted by districts in their?innovation plans. TEA must then report to the Legislature about school districts statutory?exemptions.

Although the rules are not yet final, many districts are working with school attorneys to follow?the required statutory procedure to establish innovation plans. The proposed rules include a?Figure, which is an itemized list of possible exemptions. The proposed rules state clearly that?the Figure is not intended to be a complete list of the possible exemptions. Rather, the Figure is?provided for ease of reporting, and it is neither a guarantee nor a limitation on the possible?statutory exemptions. Around the state, districts are considering innovation plans that either:?include exemptions from provisions not listed on the Figure; or describe statutory exceptions?more narrowly than the items are listed in the Figure. Any school district considering the?adoption of an innovation plan should work closely with its school attorney as it drafts the list?of exemptions in its innovation plan.

What impact could innovations have on school funding?

School district funding will remain substantially the same for Districts of Innovation. Unlike innovation zones in other states, this statutory option in Texas was not created to provide additional grant funding to participating districts. Depending on a districts innovation plan, the district may have some flexibility in the use of compensatory education funds. Districts are encouraged to think about how their flexibility choices, especially with respect to the school calendar and attendance, could impact funding calculations.

What impact could innovations have on school personnel?

Possibly none. But depending on the choices a district includes in its local innovation plan, an innovation plan could provide for substantial changes to key employment policies related to employment contracts and benefits of employment. Districts of Innovation transitioning to plans that include changes to employment practices will need to work with their school attorneys to honor existing contracts.

Can a District of Innovation be created to respond to needs or opportunities at a particular subset of campuses?

Chapter 12A does not specifically permit or prohibit adopting an innovation plan that proposes innovations at only a subset of district campuses. In other states, however, innovation zones have started at a small number of campuses (like a single feeder pattern) before expanding to other campuses. In the alternative, a district may consider the option of a campus conversion charter for a single campus or group of campuses. Tex. Educ. Code 12.0522.

What process is required to adopt an innovation plan?

The process is initiated by either:

  • a resolution of the board of trustees; or
  • a petition signed by a majority of the members of the district-level advisory committee.

Promptly after the resolution or petition, the board must hold a public hearing to consider whether the district should develop an innovation plan. Under TEAs proposed rules, a board must hold the public hearing as soon as possible, but no later than the next scheduled board of trustees meeting, to consider whether the district should develop a local innovation plan. The boards resolution may outline the parameters around which the innovation committee may develop the plan.

At the conclusion of the hearing or soon thereafter, the board may:

  • decline to pursue the designation as a District of Innovation; or appoint a committee to develop a plan.
  • The membership of the committee is not specified in statute, but as a practical matter, the members of the committee must be able to write a comprehensive plan with the elements specified below, clearly articulate the purpose of the plan, and persuade the school community of the value of the plan.

The plan must:

  • provide for a comprehensive educational program for the district which may include innovations in curriculum, instructional methods, community and parent involvement, campus governance, modifications to the school day or year, budgeting and sustainable funding, local accountability, and other innovations prescribed by the board; and identify the Texas Education Code provisions from which the District of Innovation should be exempted, within the parameters described above.
  • The board cannot approve the plan until the final plan has been posted online for 30 days, the commissioner has been notified, the district-level advisory committee (DLC) has held a public meeting to consider the final plan, and the DLC has approved the plan by a majority vote. The public hearing and vote of the DLC may occur at the same meeting.
  • The board of trustees may then vote to approve the plan. The vote must pass by a two- thirds majority vote. The district may then function in accordance with the plan and be exempt from the specified Texas Education Code mandates.
  • Districts are encouraged to use an abundance of caution throughout the adoption process to adhere to Chapter 12A, TEA rules, and state laws regarding open meetings and open records. Questions will inevitably arise about the application of the Texas Open Meetings Act to committee meetings and meetings of the DAC. School districts should consult their school attorneys regularly and keep the process as transparent as possible to avoid legal challenges that could delay the implementation of an innovation plan.
How long does an innovation plan stay in effect?

The plan may have a term of up to five years, and it may be amended, rescinded, or renewed by a majority vote of the DLC or a comparable committee if the District of Innovation is exempt from having a DLC, and the board of trustees in the same manner required for initial adoption. Districts may want to review the plan more frequently, perhaps on the biennium to consider new legislation.

TEAs proposed rules indicate that a district may have only one innovation plan at a time. A district innovation plan may be amended, rescinded, or renewed. An amendment to an approved plan does not change the date of the term of designation as a District of Innovation, and exemptions that were already formally approved need not be reviewed. The proposed rules limit renewal of a plan to the period within six months of the expiration of the plans term. During renewal, all sections of the plan and exemptions must be reviewed, and the original statutory adoption process must be followed.

If a District of Innovation receives unacceptable academic and/or financial performance ratings for two consecutive years, the commissioner may terminate the innovation plan or require the district to amend its plan. If a District of Innovation receives unacceptable academic and/or financial performance ratings for three consecutive years, the commissioner must terminate the innovation plan. Upon termination of an innovation plan, a district must return to compliance with all specified areas of the Texas Education Code by a date to be determined by the commissioner.

What impact could designation as a District of Innovation have on district policy?

A District of Innovation will likely need to make changes to LOCAL policies and may need adjustments to LEGAL policies to reflect that some legal provisions may be affected by the districts innovation plan. After TEA publishes rules and the list of legal provisions from which a District of Innovation may seek an exemption, TASB Policy Service will be able to help each District of Innovation evaluate necessary changes to the districts policy manual, which could vary greatly from district to district, depending on the extent of the district-wide exemptions included in the innovation plan.

How will District of Innovation impact the employment of existing teachers?

ϲ is fortunate to have the best teachers in the state of Texas and the nation. Districts of Innovation gives flexibility to hire new teachers in positions that are difficult to fill. No existing teacher will lose his/her job as a result of District of Innovation.

How will District of Innovation impact the employment of existing teachers?

ϲ is fortunate to have the best teachers in the state of Texas and the nation. Districts of Innovation gives flexibility to hire new teachers in positions that are difficult to fill. No existing teacher will lose his/her job as a result of District of Innovation.

How will the District change the calendar to start or end the school year?

ϲ will conduct its process for setting the calendar through a community committee, District wide feedback and review, Board review, and Board approval. It will look to set its 2017-2018 calendar in December 2016 and discuss long term calendar adoption for the subsequent two or three years in the Spring.

Why would the District consider adjusting the state required years of experience for teacher mentor ?

ϲ values experience as one indicator of a successful teacher. State law currently requires teachers to have a minimum of three years experience to mentor a new teacher. In some cases, a teacher with less than three years experience may be best to serve as a mentor. This exemption allows principals flexibility in assigning teacher mentors.