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.

 

Potential benefits of becoming a District of Innovation include:

  • Local control: Districts decide which flexibilities best suit their local needs.
  • Customization: Districts can create an innovation plan for a level of school (e.g., only high schools), grade level, or a single campus.
  • Autonomy: Districts must submit a district of innovation plan to the commissioner of education, but approval is not required. 
  • Flexibility: Districts will have the flexibility to implement practices similar to charter schools, including exemptions from mandates such as:
    • School start date
    • 90% attendance rule
    • Class-size ratios
    • Site-based decision-making processes
    • Certain student discipline provisions
    • Use of planning and preparation periods
    • Teacher appraisal requirements

Areas of Focus

Calendar (EB legal, Ed.Code 25.0811)

 

Currently, students may not begin school before the 4th Monday of August. For 2017-18, the school year will begin on August 28th.  The proposal would look at options for allowing an earlier start date and a calendar that best fits the needs of the Royse City ISD community.

 

 

 

 

Benefits of Exemption for RCISD

 

  • District Calendar Committee will have the flexibility to start school earlier
  • Starting school earlier would allow the district to balance the two semesters
  • The balanced semesters will align with college semesters as well, allowing more opportunities for summer school, internships, and industrial certification opportunities.

 Local Guidelines for RCISD

 

  • The District Calendar Committee will receive staff input when developing district calendars.

Minimum Minutes of Instruction (TEC Code 25.081, HB 2610)

For each school year, each school district must operate so that the district provides for at least 75,600 minutes of instruction, including intermissions and recesses.

 

 

Benefits for RCISD PK/PPCD Programs

  • The state requires 75,600 minutes for full day programming. For half-day programs such as PK and PPCD the required minute requirement would be 37,800 minutes. There is not enough time in the day to be able to accommodate 37,800 minutes for both a morning and afternoon group of students in our 170 day calendar. We would like to request that we be allowed to offer a 185 minute school day for half-day programs.  This will allow each teacher to have a morning and an afternoon group of students along with their conference period and duty free lunch within the regular school day.  The 185 minutes exemption will result in the students receiving 31,450 minutes of instruction during their half day program.

 Local Guidelines for PK/PPCD Program

  • RCISD will offer a PK schedule consisting of two three-hour sessions of 185 minutes, which allows each teacher to teach two groups of students while still having the required conference period and 30-minute duty free lunch.

Alternative Education Setting Exemption: (TEC Code 25.081, HB 2610)

Currently all campus are required to meet the 75,600 minute requirement.  Being exempt from the minimum minute’s requirement will permit the District to offer alternative programing with fewer minutes that focuses on quality programming that will be designed to fit the needs of ALC at-risk students without having to apply for an annual waiver. 

 

Benefits of RCISD Alternative Campus

  • Campuses such as HH Browning Academy offer an alternative education program designed to meet the needs of non-traditional students. This program offers an opportunity for students to accelerate credit attainment, acquire credits at a faster rate, and mitigate credit deficiencies.  HH Browning provides an alternative route to graduation for students who have not been successful in the traditional school due to special challenges.  These challenges include (but are not limited to) parent or parenting students; over-age students; family hardships created by economic situations that result in the student having to work instead of attend school; being credit deficient for various reasons; and/or having difficulty passing STAAR End-of-Course exams.

Local Guidelines for Alternative Campuses

  • HH Browning will offer multiple tracks / schedules to accommodate student needs.

 

Teacher Certification (TEC 21.003) DK Legal, DK Local, DK Exhibit

In the event a district cannot locate a certified teacher for a position or a teacher is teaching a subject outside of their certification, the district must submit a request to TEA. TEA then approves or denies this request. Proposal would look at options to allow a certified teacher to teach one subject out of their certified field as well as options for individuals with industry experience in a CTE field to be eligible to teach vocational courses.

Benefit of Exemption for RCISD

  • The statutory certification requirements inhibit the District’s ability to hire professionals with industry experience to teach Career and Technical Education (CTE) and STEM courses.
  • Local Qualifications will allow the district to:
    • Recruit teachers from the field, including individuals from certain trades and/or vocations with industry knowledge and real world experience
    • Offer dual credit opportunities in CTE courses
    • Hire community college instructors

Local Guidelines

  • The District will establish Local Criteria, such as years of experience, qualifications, and industry certifications, to qualify for a local (district) teaching certificate.
  • Principals, along with the CTE department, will submit candidates to the Superintendent with credentials.  The Superintendent will determine whether it is in the best interest of the district to certify the individual.  The Superintendent will notify the Board prior to beginning employment.

 

Teacher Contract Days (TEC 21.401) DCB Legal, DCB Local

Current education law in Chapter 21 defines a teacher contract as a 10 month contract equivalent to 187 days. Proposal would reduce teacher contract days from 187 to a decreased length with no effect on teacher salaries. This would be an attempt to better align the teacher days to the 75,600 minutes required of students.

 

 

 

Benefits for RCISD

  • • Will increase the daily rate the district pays teachers
  • Enhance teacher recruitment
  • Improve teacher morale

 

Minimum Attendance for Class Credit or Final Grade (TEC §25.092)

Texas Education Code Section 25.092 restricts the District from issuing class credit or a final grade if a student is not in attendance the required “seat time”. Exemption from this requirement will provide educational advantages to Royse City ISD students through innovation in the method, location, and times instruction may be delivered to students.

 

 

Benefits

This exemption would allow the District not to penalize students who miss class due to legitimate school activities. Relief granted from Section 25.092 does not constitute any substantive exemption from compulsory attendance or UIL rules, nor does it limit or modify a teacher’s ability to assign or determine grades in accordance with Texas Education Code 28.0214 and 28.0216.

 

Probationary Contracts (TEC §21.102)

Under current guidelines, probationary periods for newly hired teachers who have been in public education for at least five of the previous eight years cannot exceed one year. This limited time period is insufficient in some cases to fully determine the teacher’s effectiveness in the classroom.

 

 

Benefits:

Relief from Texas Education Code 21.102 will permit the District the option to issue a probationary contract for a period of up to two years for experienced teachers, counselors or nurses newly hired in Royse City ISD. This will allow the district time to evaluate performance.

 

Planning and Preparation Time (TEC 21.404)

Currently, teachers are entitled to at least 450 minutes within each two-week period for preparing to teach, conducting parent conferences, and evaluating students’ work.
Benefits:

  • Flexible Planning and Preparation Time; in an effort implement a Collaborative Culture in Districts, flexible scheduling is very important.  (Examples may include Professional Learning Communities – PLC’s)  Having flexibility in planning and preparation time helps in creating schedules where select teachers can reach more students and have more planning time with their grade level and content teams. All teachers will have planning and preparation time each month, but flexibility is requested for team meetings.

Guidelines:

  • The District would create procedures in order to provide the adequate time that teachers need to plan. However, team meetings are important and campuses will request teacher’s flexibility when it comes to meeting in Professional Learning Communities 

District of Innovation Timeline

District of Innovation Timeline

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Initial meeting with central administration to discuss District of Innovation.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Initial meeting with administrative staff to discuss preliminary thoughts and discuss possible members of the District of Innovation Team.

 Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Meeting with assistant principals to discuss thoughts and get feedback

Monday, November 7, 2016

District of Innovation Institute, Mansfield ISD

 Monday, November 14th, 2016

Presentation at the November Board Meeting to explain and define the benefits of becoming a District of Innovation District.

 Thursday, November 17, 2016

Present District of Innovation to the Superintendent Advisory Council to get feedback

Monday, December 5th, 2016 (Special Called Board Meeting)

5:00 pm, Special Board Meeting – Board of Trustees approve resolution to hold a public hearing to discuss the possibility of using HB 1842 to become a District of Innovation.

5:15 pm, Public Hearing – Public hearing to explain and discuss the possibility of becoming a District of Innovation.

5:30 pm, Regular Meeting

  • Approve a motion to pursue local “District of Innovation” plan.
  • Board of Trustees approve the members of the District of Innovation Committee.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016 – 4pm at Royse City ISD Training Room

Initial meeting of the District of Innovation Committee.

Monday, December 12, 2016 – Present District of Innovation Plan to the School Board.

District of Innovation Committee Final Approval.

Post the District of Innovation Plan on the district website for 30 days.

Notify Commissioner of Education of the board’s intention to vote on adoption of proposed plan.

Monday, January 23, 2017, Special Board Meeting and Workshop

Approve the District of Innovation plan.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017:  Update all policy changes with TASB.

Frequently Asked Questions

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 Texas Education Code chapter 12A. 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 and Texas Education Agency (TEA) rules.
What school districts are eligible to be Districts of Innovation?
To be eligible for designation as a District of Innovation, a school district’s most recent academic performance rating must be at least acceptable. A district with a preliminary accountability rating that is not acceptable will not be able to approve an innovation plan.
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 charter schools. 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 and student/teacher 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
  • 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
  • PEIMS
  • Criminal history record checks and educator misconduct reporting
  • Curriculum and graduation requirements
  • Bilingual education
  • Special education
  • Prekindergarten
  • Academic accountability, including student assessments
  • Financial accountability and related reporting
  • Open meetings
  • Public records
  • Certain public purchasing requirements and conflicts of interest
  • Nepotism
  • Civil immunity under Texas Education Code, Chapter 22, Subchapter B
  • Other state and federal laws outside of the Texas Education Code

Districts also may not use an innovation plan to seek exemption from a requirement imposed by a state or federal grant program in which the district voluntarily participates. 

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. As described in more detail in the 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.

Many districts are working with school attorneys to follow the required statutory procedure to establish innovation plans. TEA’s Figure, is both the means by which districts will report their exemptions to TEA and an itemized list of possible exemptions. 19 Tex. Admin. Code § 102.1307(d). The 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. For the sake of clarity and transparency, it is important that the exemptions in an innovation plan match the exemptions that a district selects in the Figure.

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 district’s 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. TEA’s Figure includes a place to indicate whether a district’s exemptions apply districtwide, by campus, or “other.” In other states, 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 TEA’s rules, a board must hold the public hearing as soon as possible, but no later than 30 days after adoption of the resolution, to consider whether the district should develop a local innovation plan. The board may outline the parameters around which the innovation committee may develop the plan, either in the resolution or at any other time during the process. 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 innovative purpose of the plan, and persuade the school community of the value of the plan. Even though the Figure is intended to be a reporting mechanism, not a complete list of available exemptions, the committee would be wise to consider how the district will fill out the Figure while developing the plan. Under TEA’s rules, the district-level advisory committee (DAC) may serve as the committee that writes the plan. Through the innovation plan, a district may also choose to do away with the DAC and substitute a different committee to serve in an advisory role. 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 DAC has held a public meeting to consider the final plan, and the DAC has approved the plan by a majority vote. As a best practice, the district should notify TEA of a proposed plan at the same time as the plan is posted on the district’s website. The public hearing and vote of the DAC 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 DAC or a comparable committee if the District of Innovation is exempt from having a DAC, 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.

TEA’s 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. 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 district’s 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 and Legal Services will be able to help each District of Innovation evaluate necessary changes to the district’s policy manual, which could vary greatly from district to district, depending on the extent of the district-wide exemptions included in the innovation plan.

Committee Members

Kevin Worthy

RCISD

Superintendent

Julia Robinson

RCISD

Assistant Superintendent

Kenny Kaye Hudson

RCISD

Assistant Superintendent

Stuart Burt

RCISD

Chief Technology Officer

Adi Bryant

RCISD

Chief Communication Officer

Jeff Webb

RCISD

Associate Superintendent

Nikki Steele

RCHS

Associate Principal

Jere Craighead

RCMS

Principal

Richard Pense

Cherry

Principal

Shannon Hayes

Vernon

Principal

Lloyd Blaine

ALC

Director of Student Services

Linda Taylor

RCHS

Lead Counselor

Jennifer Martin

RCMS

Counselor

Shane Aultman

Fort

Teacher

Deshaun Smith

Davis

Teacher

Crystal Martin

Scott

Teacher

Nellie Gilbert

Vernon

Teacher

James Riemenschneider

Herndon

Teacher

Jodi Goodman

Cherry

Teacher

Emily Hays

RCMS

Teacher

Kathleen Krumnow

RCHS

Teacher

Bobbi Pereida

ALC

Teacher

 

X