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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, began the consideration of developing an innovation that plan that reflects the unique needs of the district and allows the district to assume greater local control.  The District continues to operate under that District of Innovation Plan. However, the five-year term of the existing Plan expires at the end of school year 2020-2021.  As a result, the district is actively pursuing a new Plan for the next five-year cycle.

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 is currently posted on the District website for a 30-day review by the community.  At its meeting on April 15, 2021, another Public Meeting will be held during the District Leadership Council Meeting.  If approved by the DLC during that meeting, the Plan will be presented to the HPISD Board of Trustees for consideration at its meeting on April 20, 2021.

 

District of Innovation Plan: 

To submit public comments by 2:00 pm, please click here:

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 councel as well as the District Leadership Council, the HPISD plan exempts the district from state statutes in the following 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.

Credit by examination without prior instruction

The passing standard for the examinations for acceleration will be determined by a district committee and will not exceed the previously required score of 90.  Requiring a higher score than the 80 currently in law ensures that the student has more thoroughly mastered the content and will be better prepared to succeed in the next course or in post-secondary courses. 

Q: What exemptions are being proposed for HPISD in its new, proposed plan?

A: Based on feedback from district and campus administrators, district counsel as well as the District Leadership Council, the current HPISD plan exempts the district from state statutes in the following five areas:

First day of instruction – continuing from the previous plan

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 –continuing from the previous plan

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 – continuing from the previous plan

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 - new

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 teachers newly hired by HPISD or rehired after a break in service. Such recommendation will be in collaboration between the principal and executive director of human resources.

Campus behavior coordinator - new

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: Based on its approval date, the current HPISD plan will be in effect through the school year 2020-2021.  

If adopted by the Board in April 2021, the new 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.