“What this does is it allows the district certain flexibility with state rules and guidelines and different policies,” Assistant Superintendent of Administration Jason Bullock said. “The administration is interested in exploring the District of Innovation designation for one reason at this point, and that is to consider an earlier start date to next school year before the fourth Monday in August.”
The 84th Texas Legislature passed House Bill 1842 to create districts of innovation in 2015, providing districts more flexibility and local control in district planning, Bullock said. More than 600 districts of innovation have been created across the state since that time, he said.
Becoming a District of Innovation would allow MISD students to begin the school year prior to the fourth Monday in August—the current rule under the Texas Education Code—and have more flexibility with scheduling professional development and bad weather days, Bullock said.
“It’s about giving more local control to school districts,” he said. “This is the most popular reason that districts consider District of Innovation [designation] is so they can have an earlier start date than that fourth Monday.”
The MISD board of trustees also appointed a District of Innovation Committee on Monday tasked with creating an innovation plan to present to the board. The committee includes community members, administration and educators from each campus.
According to the Texas Education Agency, the innovation plan must be posted for 30 days before the board of trustees can cast its vote regarding the District of Innovation designation.
Tomball ISD has launched its District of Innovation plan for the 2017-18 school year.
Districts of innovation can exempt themselves from various standards regarding teacher certifications and contracts, school year start and end dates, the school day length and class sizes, according to the TEA.
However, MISD is not considering a change to the required educator certifications, Superintendent Todd Stephens said.
“We’re looking at this only for the possibility to give just a little extra lead time to start our calendar,” he said.