HOUSTON – The Houston Independent School District is considering a move that could change the district’s approach to the upcoming school year.
During a virtual meeting Thursday, the Board of Education will discuss a resolution to initiate the process of designating HISD as a District of Innovation. The status would allow the district “greater local control over decisions impacting positive educational outcomes for students," the district said in a press release.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic that shuttered the traditional classroom structure, school districts across the country are hamming out plans for the 2020-21 school year. The Texas Education Agency outlined how the upcoming school year might be different, including a disrupted calendar that would have a sooner start date, a later end date and longer breaks for students in between.
HISD is seeking three primary outcomes for adopting the District of Innovation status:
- Starting the school year earlier than the fourth Monday in August
- Hiring qualified industry professionals to teach Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses in areas where the district struggles to fill vacancies
- Exercising flexibility with the minimum attendance for class credit requirement, which a 90% attendance rule
If approved and adopted, the status would go into effect for the 2021-2022 school year.
As the largest public school district in the state, HISD would join nearly 900 other Texas school districts with a District of Innovation status. Many of the region’s largest traditional public school districts, excluding Cy-Fair ISD and Lamar CISD, pursued the innovation status and moved up its start dates to mid-August.
If approved, HISD trustees would outline the exemptions they want to request and appoint a committee to draft a plan, according to the Houston Chronicle. Typically committees are comprised of administrators, teachers, support staff and community members. Trustees could vote on such a plan as early as October under state law, the plan only passes if at least six of nine board members vote in favor.
Tussle with TEA
HISD is seeking the District of Innovation status after a long legal battle with the TEA, which called to indefinitely seize power from its elected school board.
In November 2019, the TEA moved to takeover HISD due to the findings of a special accreditation investigation, the lowered accreditation status, the unacceptable performance of a district campus and the length of the conservator appointment, the TEA Commissioner Mike Morath outlined in a 23-page letter to the district.
A state judge blocked the state from taking over this district until she reached a final ruling on the case, complicating the state’s plan to oust the district’s school board by March, KPRC 2 previously reported.