Keller Citizen

Keller district of innovation group proposes push for more local control

The Keller District of Innovation Committee approved 10 recommendations for exemptions from state law in a proposal for trustees to consider next month.
The Keller District of Innovation Committee approved 10 recommendations for exemptions from state law in a proposal for trustees to consider next month. Courtesy

The Keller District of Innovation Committee recommended 10 of 12 subcommittee proposals to adopt new policies in exchange for current state laws to gain flexibility and more local control.

The group, which has about 90 members, had around 50 members present for a meeting Nov. 3 at the Keller ISD Education Center to vote on a set of options. The committee also met Oct. 19 to begin the voting process. Members included parents, teachers, administrators and representatives from higher education and the local community.

Approving a District of Innovation (DOI) plan allows Texas school districts to gain exemption from certain laws and replace them with local policies to get some of the same flexibility that charter schools have.

At the most recent meeting, a few dozen teachers attended to observe the process and share their views on laws that should stay in place. Several teachers said they were concerned they would lose protections if some of the laws were replaced by local policies.

“We’ve got a window of opportunity for flexibility to consider certain things,” said Superintendent Randy Reid. “There does have to be a trust factor involved.”

Reid invited teachers and other interested community members to get involved in the policy writing process to ensure their concerns are addressed.

The 10 recommendations that will go before the school board include the ability to start the school year earlier, a few that involve attendance and discipline requirements, the ability to hire non-certified teachers in specialized areas and a change in the required length of teacher planning periods but not the total amount of planning time.

The two proposals that failed to earn enough support to move on were an exemption from the 22-1 student-teacher ratio for kindergarten through fourth grade and from a required daily 30-minute lunch break for teachers.

Subcommittee members said the ratio exemption would save the district time in requesting a waiver when a child moves into the area after the school year starts or a child needs to move from one class to another. The policy accompanying the change could state a limit of 24 students, but that would be in rare cases only. Officials said they wanted most all elementary classes to have 22 or fewer kids.

Some of the teachers present said they were worried the exemption would allow class sizes to creep up.

The lunch period duty-free exemption request would prevent problems on field trips and allow teachers to conduct tutorials or host clubs during lunch.

Several teachers said they already have the option of working with students at lunch, if they choose. Removing the requirement for a duty-free lunch could endanger a needed break in a busy day, they said.

Glenda Kemmerling-Wilson, a teacher at Timberview Middle School and a DOI committee member, said not all of the concerns expressed in subcommittees were brought forward to the whole group.

“I felt it was a very difficult process. Teachers had to persuade the committee and the cabinet about the way the teacher’s life is today,” she said. “I appreciate the response that some of those issues needed to be tabled, but the laws are there for a reason.”

The recommendations of the DOI committee are available on the district website at kellerisd.net. Look for the “District of Innovation” link in the middle of the home page.

There will be a public hearing and the board will get a chance to vote on the plan at the Dec. 8 board meeting.

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