Austin ISD joined other Texas public school districts March 27 when its board of trustees voted to become a district of innovation, or DOI. Four exemptions from state laws were approved as part of the district's innovation plan, including amendments related to the school year calendar, allowances for non-certified teachers to teach certain courses, and adjustments to minimum required attendance and minutes of instruction. At Monday's work session, AISD trustees discussed revising district policy to support those exemptions. Here are six takeaways from that conversation:

  • The proposed policy changes were drafted by a policy analyst from the Texas Association of School Boards, according to Edna Butts, director of intergovernmental relations and policy oversight at AISD. Every district that elects to become a DOI is provided this service. The changes have also been reviewed by Superintendent Paul Cruz and his senior staff.

  • Six policy revisions were presented to the trustees. The first states that AISD has met all of the requirements for a DOI designation. The second requires employees who have earned new certificates, endorsements or degrees within the past year to submit proof to the district. The remaining four are directly related to the four exemptions sought by the district as part of its innovation plan.

  • Trustee Cindy Anderson wondered whether information and deadlines had been distributed to schools interested in adopting DOI exemptions for the upcoming school year. Guidelines and the necessary paperwork have been sent out to schools across the district, Cruz explained, and Cruz has met with principals to discuss implementing exemptions in school year 2018-19. Cruz stipulated that adoption of DOI exemptions is contingent upon approval by a school's campus advisory council.

  • The soft deadline to adopt exemptions for the fall semester of school year 2018-19 would be this summer, Cruz said; however, schools will also have the opportunity to apply for exemptions to take effect in the spring 2018 semester.

  • Certain bills proposed in the state's legislative session might hinder AISD's ability to adopt certain DOI-related exemptions, such as the amendment to the school year's start/end date. In response to concerns by trustee Amber Elenz, Butts said that if the proposed exemptions have to be revised, TASB will notify the district and help guide the Innovation District Advisory Committee through that process.

  • The board is scheduled to take action on the DOI-related policies at its May 22 regular board meeting.