Hutto ISD is state's 65th district of innovation

Hutto ISD is the 65th school district in Texas to become a district of innovation, or DOI on Jan. 12. The designation gives HISD flexibility in some areas defined through Texas’ DOI law, allowing local innovation plans to exempt it from parts of the state education code.

The designation was approved for Round Rock ISD by its board of trustees in October. In November the Texas State Teachers Association filed a complaint saying the district did not have enough classroom teachers serve on the district-level DOI development committee and argued the membership makeup of a separate campus-level DOI committee did not follow code provisions.

Issues faced in RRISD were lessons learned in HISD before the district presented the DOI plan to its board of trustees at a meeting Jan. 12, Superintendent Douglas Killian said.

“We took our time,” Killian said. “We involved a lot of people in the process and will continue to do that. We wanted to make sure this works for everybody, and we’ve learned from what other districts went through.”

Although HISD will work toward what its designation means, RRISD presented its DOI calendar for the 2017-18 school year to the public at a meeting in late January. It includes an earlier start date on Aug. 22 with school ending before Memorial Day.

RRISD's proposal also calls for five minutes added to each school day.

HISD began the process toward DOI status nearly three years ago, assessing goals and priorities. HISD developed strategic objectives and strategies to build the framework of its plan.

Another 100 community members, parents, business leaders, civic representatives and school personnel were organized into 12 action teams to make the strategic plan operational.

House Bill 1842, passed during the 84th legislative session, gave HISD an opportunity to implement some of its strategic priorities through a DOI status.

“Our strategic priorities will require Hutto ISD to evolve, to think fundamentally differently about such critical systemic components as how we are organized, how we deliver instruction, how we recruit and retain top talent, how we engage and support our families, what experiences we provide and how we grow continually as a learning organization,” the HISD plan states.

“We’ve been innovative in many ways already,” Killian said. “Teachers were two-thirds of our advisory committee. The plan outlines what is best for our students.”

HISD’s DOI plan is effective for five years unless it is terminated or amended earlier by the board in accordance with the law. The district must maintain acceptable academic and financial performances to remain eligible as a DOI, and the HISD DOI committee will monitor the effectiveness of the plan.

Brandy Baker, assistant superintendent and chairwoman of the DOI committee, presented the information to the board prior to a unanimous vote to approve.

“Everybody worked together,” Killian said. “I’m confident this is going to be a positive for all of us.”

By Joe Warner
Joe Warner is executive editor of Community Impact Newspaper. He previously served as managing editor for Central Texas and senior editor of the flagship Round Rock, Pflugerville and Hutto newspaper. He came to Central Texas from Metro Detroit, where he was editor and general manager of several daily and weekly publications. He is the former president of the Michigan Press Association and was on the MPA board of directors for nine years.