WACO ISD EXPLORES “DISTRICT OF INNOVATION” DESIGNATION
Waco ISD is one of the first school districts in Central Texas to take advantage of a new state law and explore becoming a designated “District of Innovation,” gaining more local control over the educational process in our community.
The Board of Trustees unanimously adopted a resolution March 24, 2016, to initiate a multi-step process that would give the district flexibility and the freedom from state mandates in certain areas like school calendars, class sizes, attendance and discipline, and teacher certification.
"No two school districts are alike, so District of Innovation status would allow WISD to make, drop or modify rules that would allow us to be a better district," said Superintendent Dr. Bonny Cain.
A committee collects public input and then creates a plan unique to Waco ISD that names specific laws to exempt the district from and which ones to leave in place. The committee could also decide to not pursue the innovation designation.
That plan, which can remain in effect for five years, is then submitted to the state commissioner of education, but approval is not required.
“It is exciting to be on the cutting edge of the education scene and custom design operations portions of WISD,” Cain added.
The following pages include an information sheet on DOI, the designation timeline, a copy of the Board of Trustees resolution, and a list of committee members. Content will be updated as the process develops.
We invite your questions or comments regarding the District of Innovation opportunity by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Districts of Innovation Information
The Texas Legislature during the 84th Legislative Session passed House Bill (HB) 1842.
HB 1842 provides the opportunity for Texas public schools to be designated as Districts of Innovation.
Districts of Innovation may be exempted from a number of state statutes and will allow a local school district to consider pursuing specific innovations in curriculum, instruction, governance, parent or community involvement, school calendar, budgeting, or other local district concepts and ideas. HB 1842 allows for a local public school district to develop a plan which may have greater local control and the ability to gain exemption from many Texas Education Code requirements.
The Districts of Innovation legislation provides for a local public school district to develop a plan which includes exemptions from many of the state laws that are not applicable to open enrollment school districts (charter schools). Laws that may be exempted 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 (compulsory attendance still applies)
- Student discipline (code of conduct and restrictions on restraint and seclusion still apply)
- Teacher certification (federal law still applies)
- Teacher contracts
- Teacher benefits, including state minimum salary schedule, duty-free lunch, and planning periods
- Teacher appraisal system
The District of Innovation plan may not include exemptions to the following:
- Elected boards of trustees
- Powers and duties of school boards, superintendents, and principals
- Criminal history record checks and educator misconduct reporting
- Curriculum and graduation requirements
- Bilingual education
- Special education
- Academic accountability
- Financial accountability
- Open meetings
- Public records
- Purchasing under the Texas Local Government Code and conflicts of interest
Districts of Innovation Process:
- Initiated by a resolution of the board of trustees or a petition signed by the majority of the members of the district-level advisory committee.
- After the resolution or petition the board of trustees shall hold a public hearing to receive input on the district pursuing an innovation plan.
- The Board of Trustees may vote to appoint a committee to develop a plan or decline to pursue the designation as a District of Innovation.
- If the Board of Trustees votes to purse the development of the innovation plan, a planning committee is to be approved by the board.
- The committee develops the plan which is customized for the local needs of the district and must identify the Texas Education Code provisions from which the District of Innovation should be exempted.
- The committee’s plan must be presented to the District Advisory Committee who will hold a public meeting and then will vote on the plan. The plan must receive a majority vote from the District Advisory Committee in order to be sent to the Board of Trustees for their review and vote.
- The final plan must be posted online for 30 days before the board may vote on the plan.
- The Commissioner of Education does not approve the plan, but must be notified by the district and receive a copy of the innovation plan.
- The Board of Trustees must approve the plan with a two-thirds majority vote.
- The local District of Innovation Plan may have a term of five years and may be amended, rescinded, or renewed by a majority vote of the District Advisory Committee and the Board of Trustees in the same manner as the initial plan was approved.