Posted: April 17, 2017
District of Innovation Plan
House Bill 1842, passed during the 84th Texas Legislative Session provides public school districts the opportunity to seek designation as a District of Innovation to obtain exemption from certain provisions of the Texas Education Code. On February 15, 2017, the Board of Trustees adopted a resolution to initiate the process of designation as a District of Innovation.
Districts of Innovation may be exempted from a number of state statutes and will have:
● Greater local control as the decision makers over the educational and instructional model for students;
● Increased freedom and flexibility, with accountability, relative to state mandates that govern educational programming; and
● Empowerment to innovate and think differently.
Districts are not exempt from statutes including curriculum, graduation requirements, and academic and financial accountability.
Timeline of Events
February 15, 2017 Board of Trustees approves resolution to develop a Plan of Innovation
March 20, 2017 Board of Trustees conducts a Public Hearing to discuss development of a Plan of Innovation
March 20, 2017 Board of Trustees appointed an Innovation Plan Committee
April 18, 2017 Day 1 of timeline for posting of Innovation plan
May 16, 2017 Board notifies Commissioner of intent to adopt Innovation plan
May 17, 2017 Day 30 of timeline for posting of Innovation plan
May 17, 2017 District Committee holds a Public Hearing to consider and approve the final version of the Innovation Plan
May 18, 2017 Notify the Commissioner of intent of the Cisco ISD Board of Trustees to adopted the Innovation plan
June 12, 2017 Cisco ISD Board of Trustees to ratify the Innovation plan
The Innovation Plan
1. District Calendar
Exemption from TEC §25.0811 states that a school district may not begin student instruction before the 4th Monday of August.
Proposal: To best serve the students of Cisco ISD, we propose to create a school calendar which serves the needs of our local community. We propose moving the mandatory start date earlier than the fourth Monday. Waiting to start classes until the fourth Monday in August forces semesters to be significantly unequal in length, with second semester being approximately four weeks longer than the first semester.
Flexibility to begin instruction earlier in August will enable our district to better balance instruction time in each semester as well as making an effort to end our first semester prior to Winter Break.
2. Teacher Certification and Probationary Contracts
Exemption from TEC 21.102 (b)
TEC 21.102 (b) states that a probationary contract may not exceed one year for a person who has been employed as a teacher in public education for at least five of the eight years preceding employment with the district.
Proposal: This period of time may not be sufficient to evaluate the teacher’s effectiveness in the classroom since teacher contract timelines demand that employment decisions must be made prior to the availability of end-of-year classroom and student data. Upon exemption from TEC 21.102 (b), all new contract employees will be eligible to the probationary period of up to three years, allowing more time for the district to fairly and thoroughly assess an employee’s performance.
Exemption from: TEC §21.003(a) TEC §21.053,TEC §21.057
TEC §21.003(a) states that a person may not be employed as a teacher by a school district unless the person holds an appropriate certificate or permit issued by the appropriate state agency. In the event a district cannot locate a certified teacher for a position or a teacher is teaching subject outside of their certification, the district must request emergency certification from the Texas Education Agency and/or State Board of Educator Certification. This system is burdensome and does not take into account the unique financial and/or instructional needs of the district.
TEC §21.053 requires a teacher to present his or her certificate to the District before their employment contract will be binding, and prohibits the District from paying an educator for teacher if the educator does not hold a valid certificate at the time.
TEC §21.057 requires that the District provide written notice to parents if an inappropriately or uncertified teacher is assigned to a classroom for more than 30 consecutive instructional days.
Proposal: The district will maintain its current expectations for employee certification and will make every attempt to hire individuals with appropriate certifications for the position in question. However, when that is not reasonably possible, the district will have the flexibility to hire individuals who are knowledgeable in the area and equipped to effectively perform the duties of the position in question. Cisco ISD would like the ability to locally certify teachers in areas of high demand, to better meet the educational needs of our students. These areas would include, but are not limited to CTE and languages other than English. Special Education and Bilingual teachers will continue to be required to hold a standard teaching certificate. Teachers with industry certifications and native speakers with qualified experience could be eligible to teach a course through a local teaching certification.
This process will allow more flexibility in our scheduling, and provide more options for our students in class offerings leading to industry recognized certifications.
3. Class Size
TEC 25.112 limits the class size for K-4 grades to a maximum of 22:1. The district has the option to apply for a waiver in the event one of our classes exceeds this ratio.
Proposal: An exemption from class size would eliminate the time and paperwork required to file the waiver with TEA. The district does not intend to consistently exceed the 22:1 ratio. If the student/teacher ratio for all sections of a grade level reach 23:1 per campus, the district will start the process to add a teacher.
4. Discipline Options
Designation of Campus Behavior Coordinator
Senate Bill 107 requires the designation of a Campus Behavior Coordinator on each campus. This person is responsible for maintaining student discipline and the implementation of Chapter 37, Subchapter A
Proposal: To best serve the needs of students and staff in Cisco ISD, we propose the
District abstain from designating only one person as the Campus Behavior Coordinator.
Cisco ISD’s elementary campuses currently have at least two administrators: one principal and one assistant principal, who by job description, serve in this capacity already. Our secondary schools each have one principal and an assistant principal who all work together to ensure compliance with Chapter 37, Subchapter A. Our District believes in a collaborative approach to discipline, with multiple people providing emotional and social support to students, rather than just one person. Exemption from this requirement will allow the option of increasing collaboration in regard to student discipline, as outlined in the Cisco ISD’s Student Code of Conduct.
Requirement to have in school disciplinary placements for students including minimum academic requirements for disciplinary placements
Currently states “a DAEP shall be provided in a setting other than the students’ regular classroom. It may be located on or off a regular school campus.” Students occasionally need to stay connected to their courses such as choir, band, athletics, a dual credit course, CTE course, or AP course. There are barriers to learners always being able to take the course at the DAEP building. Relief from this law would look at rewording the location section of the policy to provide some exceptions for learners to be able to continue in specific courses in their regular classroom while assigned to DAEP.
Innovation: Exemption from this requirement will provide campus staff freedom in terms of choosing discipline techniques that best suit the situation and the student. This change will provide greater opportunities for academics (Extra-Curricular, Dual Credit, and Advance Placement Courses on Campus). It is the district’s desire to allow students to maintain rigorous coursework while in a disciplinary placement and this exemption will allow the district to think about academics and extracurricular opportunities in a disciplinary placement in new ways.
TEC 37.005 (FOB(Legal)
Three day limitation on suspensions
Currently states “A suspension may not exceed three school days.” This exemption is desired to change the maximum number of days of suspension allowed. The law has been interpreted to apply to both in and out of school suspensions. This limitation minimizes the options a campus has for discipline without sending a student to DAEP.
The DOI Committee discussed additional days on campus in suspension could provide a way for a campus to avoid excessive discretionary DAEP placements. It is beneficial to allow students to stay on campus and closer to their normal educators and services.
5. ADJUST INSTRUCTIONAL MINUTES AND SCHOOL DAY LENGTH
(TEC §25.081(e)) (TEC §25.082(a)) (EB LEGAL)
Manner in which the statute inhibits the plan:
The Texas Education Codes define the length of the instructional day as “420 minutes of instruction” or “seven hours each day including intermissions and recesses.” The intent of this code is to standardize across all districts the amount of time students are engaged in classroom learning. The school code also allows school districts and charter schools to add minutes as necessary to compensate for minutes of instruction lost due to school closures caused by disaster, flood, extreme weather conditions, fuel curtailment or another calamity.
Cisco ISD believes flexibility in use of minutes as well as the length of the school day will support teachers and staff who participate in relevant professional development, perfecting their craft, deepening their content knowledge and analyzing student data. In addition – particularly at the elementary level – flexibility in both instructional minutes and the length of the school day will protect all-important parent-teacher conferences especially in the event of inclement weather days, which may impact cumulative instructional minutes allocated over the course of a school year.
Cisco ISD also serves students through a very unique, dropout recovery program. The alternative campus, Cisco Learning Center, has been in operation since 1997 and has graduated over 300 students that would have most likely been high school dropouts. This program does require very flexible scheduling due to the personalized nature of the students’ instructional plan. Release from this statute will help maximize the effectiveness of the program.
Local Innovation Strategies:
A. Cisco ISD will make an effort to maintain the total of 75,600 minutes of instruction per year, but seeks an exemption from these statutes as necessary so it may approach the 75,600-minute goal in a more creative manner without being confined to either 420 minutes or seven hours of instruction every day. This will offer campuses greater flexibility in creating daily/weekly instructional schedules that better meet the needs of the students we serve.
B. This exemption will allow for local control regarding the early dismissal of students for various purposes. Early release days may be used for additional professional development, unique instructional arrangements, teacher collaboration, teacher/parent conferences, releasing prior to a holiday and other special occasions, or other school related activities.
6. ADJUSTMENT OF TEACHER CONTRACT DAYS
(TEC §21.401) (DC LEGAL)
Manner in which the statute inhibits the plan:
Texas Education Code states that a contract between the district and an educator must be for a minimum of ten months of service. An educator employed under a ten-month contract must provide a minimum of 187 days of service. The Commissioner may reduce the number of days of service, but such a reduction does not reduce an educator’s salary.
District calendars are designed to maintain the minimum total of 75,600 minutes of instruction per year. However, due to individual campus schedules, excess minutes of instruction may be ‘banked’ and used as required make-up time in the event of bad weather or emergencies requiring the closing of a campus or district. Although this flexibility has been allowed for required student attendance, there was no flexibility that impacted teacher contract days. Districts should have the option to reduce the number of contract days for educators when bad weather or emergencies arise.
Local Innovation Strategies:
A. Cisco ISD will continue its very conservative practice regarding the implementation of bad weather/emergency closures. In the event that inclement weather or emergencies arise requiring the closure of a campus or entire district, the Board of Trustees shall have the option to reduce the number of contract days by an amount less than or equal to the number of attendance days adjusted for student instruction.
B. If the Board of Trustees makes any change to reduce the number of contracted days, such a reduction may not reduce an educator’s salary.
7. School District Depositories Contract
TEC Code: Subchapter G. School District Depositories Sec. §45.205 TERM OF CONTRACT. a) Except as provided by Subsection (b), the depository bank when selected shall serve for a term of two years and until its successor is selected and has qualified.
(b) A school district and the district's depository bank may agree to extend a depository contract for two additional two-year terms. An extension under this subsection is not subject to the requirements of Section 45.206.
(c) The contract term and any extension must coincide with the school district's fiscal year.
Rationale for the Exemption:
• This exemption is to allow the district’s existing bank contract to be extended beyond the total 6-year allowable contract term if the district determines contract pricing remains competitive and there is no operational or financial reason to send the district’s banking services out for bid. This exemption lessens the administrative burden related to preparing and reviewing a Request for Proposal (RFP) when there is a limited number of banking institutions available to bid on the district’s business. This will further mitigate any impact to employees that would have to change direct deposit instructions each time a new depository occurs and allows the district flexibility with respect to banking relationships.
• The district will only send depository services out to bid if the district determines contract pricing becomes uncompetitive or there is some operational or financial reason to send the district’s banking services out for bid. With this exemption in place, none of the additional requirements related to the bid or request for proposal detailed in Sec 45.206 through 45.209 would be applicable.
8. Exemptions from Future TEC Mandates
To best serve our local Cisco ISD community, staff, and students, Cisco ISD includes a provision in our Local Innovation Plan for the District to maintain control over any future, eligible Texas Education Code mandates, which may be exempted by a two-thirds majority vote of the Cisco ISD Board of Trustees.
The term of the District of Innovation Plan, as outlined by the Texas Education Agency, is five years; therefore, the plan shall commence with the 2017-2018 academic year and conclude at the end of the 2021-2022 school year, unless terminated or amended earlier by the Board of Trustees in accordance with the law. The Local Innovation Team will continually monitor the effectiveness of the Plan and recommend to the Board any suggested modifications as needed to address innovative disruptions.
Cisco ISD “District of Innovation” Planning Committee
Ryan Steele, Superintendent
Craig Kent, Cisco High School Principal
Darrell Draper, Cisco Junior High Principal
Julie Patterson, Cisco Learning Center Principal
Sharon Wilcoxen, Cisco Elementary Principal
RaDonna Burleson, Cisco Elementary Assistant Principal
Patrick Pope, Cisco Secondary Schools Assistant Principal
James Taylor, Dual-Credit and LEAP Program / GT Director
Erin Schaefer, Cisco High School Counselor
Mandy Speer, Cisco Junior High School Counselor
Melissa Steele, Cisco Junior High School Counselor
Kathy Conring, Cisco Elementary Counselor