People can comment Tuesday on the Fort Worth school district’s proposed District of Innovation designation — a plan that would create greater latitude for hiring career and technology teachers while also allowing more local control of the school calendar.
Districts of Innovation were developed by the 84th Legislature. The designation gives traditional school districts freedoms available to Texas’ open-enrollment charter schools. Mansfield schools approved a similar effort during the summer. Keller schools recently created a committee to explore the issue.
“There are more and more school districts taking advantage of it,” said Steven Poole, executive director of the United Educators Association, which represents more than 23,000 public school employees in North Texas. “The process is that they have to pass a resolution and hold a public hearing and then from there, the board decides if they want to pursue it or not.”
Fort Worth trustees approved a resolution Oct. 11 that started the process. The public is invited to comment at a Tuesday public hearing.
Charles Carroll, the district’s chief academic officer, said officials will outline the process and explain how committees are made up.
The career and tech fields that are in demand are not typically areas where we find certified teaching personnel.
Charles Carroll, chief academic officer of Fort Worth schools
“If the board indicates a willingness to engage in next steps with the District of Innovation, a large, diverse district committee will be established to come to agreement about a set of priorities for [the district] and develop a plan to achieve those priorities,” Carroll said.
Superintendent Kent Scribner said the Fort Worth plan is focused on easing certification requirements for specialized professionals, like engineers, to teach career and technology courses. The plan also gives the district local control of its school calendar for professional development.
The earliest school year to potentially be changed by the plan would be the 2018-19 academic year.
Poole said some worry that the designation can open a Pandora’s box. For example, the designation can allow districts to do away with 30-minute duty-free lunches for teaches or increase class sizes in kindergarten through grade 4 beyond the 22-student limit.
“As a whole we don’t support the District of Innovation state law,” Poole said, explaining that if a district seeks it, the district needs a “laserlike” focus on what to achieve.
An official designation can placed upon the district after a plan is voted on by Fort Worth school district trustees and accepted by the Texas Education Agency.
Trustee Ann Sutherland expressed concerns about the designation, explaining that she doesn’t want to diminish protections for teacher contracts, student discipline and parent rights.
Scribner promised not to seek latitudes in those areas.
“My word is good,” he said.
This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.
If you go
The public hearing is part of the school board’s regular meeting, which begins at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.
The meeting will be at the Fort Worth school district board complex, 2903 Shotts St.
Speakers may sign up until one hour before the start of the meeting, by contacting the school board office at 817-814-1920 or by arriving early on the day of the meeting to fill out a speaker card. Each speaker is allowed to speak once for three minutes.
To find out more: On the Texas Education Agency website, parents can go to the “search” bar and type in “district of innovation” to find resources. The Texas Association of School Boards website at www.tasb.org also has documents and flowcharts about the issue.