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District of Innovation

In summer 2015, the 84th Texas Legislature passed House Bill 1842, allowing public school districts to obtain the designation of District of Innovation and gain exemption from certain Texas Education Code provisions. This designation allows independent school districts to have flexibilities currently available to open enrollment charter schools. 

During spring 2017, Highland Park ISD, having met the state’s eligibility requirements, developed an innovation plan that reflected the unique needs of the district and allowed the district to assume greater local control. Because the five-year term of the inital Plan expired at the end of school year 2020-2021, the district developed a new Plan during Spring 2021 for the next five-year cycle from 2021-2026.

The process began with a Board of Trustees resolution, a public hearing and the appointment of a committee to develop or decline the plan. After seeking input from assorted stakeholders, including principals and administrators with review by district counsel, the proposed Plan was approved by the District Leadership Council (DLC) and posted on the District website for a 30-day review by the community.  After the review period, a Public Meeting was held during a District Leadership Council Meeting and the Plan was approved by the DLC. The Plan was then presented to and approved by the HPISD Board of Trustees at its April 20, 2021 meeting. In accordance with state requirements, the final, approved Plan was submitted to the Commissioner of Education. 


District of Innovation Plan: 

District of Innovation FAQ:


Q: What is a District of Innovation?

A: In 2015, the 84th Texas Legislature passed House Bill 1842, which created opportunities for a public school district to pursue and become a district of innovation. Districts that qualify may develop an innovation plan that permits the district to be exempt from certain existing state statutes. These exemptions are already available to charter schools. 

Q: What does the state require before a district can pursue the designation?

A: To qualify, districts must have met both academic and financial accountability ratings established by the Texas Education Agency.

Q: What is the purpose of becoming a district of innovation?

A: The designation allows districts to have greater local control in decision-making about the educational and instructional model for students, have increased autonomy and flexibility from state mandates that govern educational programming, and be empowered to innovate and plan differently.

The flexibility to have greater local control over its programs without some of the statutory restrictions will support the district in its goal to implement practices that will improve student learning.

Q: What are some of the exemptions that can be considered? 

A: According to the Texas Association of School Boards, the most frequently sought-after exemptions include: educator certification, teacher contracts, first and last day of school, length of the school day, class size, and certain purchasing and contract requirements.

Q: What exemptions are prohibited?

A: Texas Education Code Chapter 12a prohibits public school districts from seeking exemptions from certain state statutes, including district governance, curriculum, state assessment system, school finance, and all federal requirements.

Q: What exemptions have been approved for HPISD in its current plan?

A: Based on feedback from district and campus administrators, district counsel as well approval by the District Leadership Council and Board of Trustees, the current HPISD plan exempts the district from state statutes in the following five (5) areas 

First day of instruction

With input from staff and community stakeholders, the District Calendar Committee will develop its annual calendar recommendation for approval by the Board of Trustees. Through the exemption, the first day of instruction can begin prior to the fourth Monday in August. Preference will be given to starting instruction around the third week in August with assurances to the community that it will not begin prior to the second Monday in August.

Teacher certification

The district fully intends to maintain its commitment to hire certified professionals and will continue to seek employees with appropriate certifications. However, this exemption will permit district leadership to have the flexibility to establish its own criteria in hiring quality personnel who may have knowledge in the hard-to-fill areas of CTE and STEAM but lack the traditional certifications. 

Class size limits in grades K-4

The district fully intends to continue its practice of maintaining reasonable class sizes in kindergarten through grade four. Those standards include staffing at 23:1 with a maximum K-4 class size of 24:1. However, flexibility from these statutes will allow administrators and principals to make decisions about reasonable class sizes based on local factors without the reporting encumbrances currently required by state law.

Probationary contracts for experienced teachers
Exemption from this statute will better permit administrators the time necessary to evaluate a teacher’s performance and provide opportunities for additional improvement and growth. This change in the probationary contract from one year up to two additional years will be available as an option for newly hired HPISD teachers or teachers rehired after a break in service. Such recommendation will be in collaboration between the principal and executive director of human resources.

Campus behavior coordinator
While the principal will continue to be apprised of disciplinary matters occurring on campus, relief from this statute would permit the principal to designate multiple campus behavior coordinators. This approach to discipline will allow for continued collaboration to support students and handle disciplinary matters.

Q: How long is the plan effective?

A: The HPISD District of Innovation Plan will be in effect beginning with school year 2021-2022 through school year 2025-2026. During that time, additions or deletions can be proposed in the same manner followed in the original adoption of the plan.

Q: How does the designation as a district of innovation impact district policy?

A: Board approval of the innovation plan will result in changes to both legal and local policies. TASB policy service will assist the district in making the necessary changes.