Northeast Tarrant

Carroll district innovation plan would impact calendar

Rickie Keim talks to students about her favorite book for the first day of school at Jack D. Johnson Elementary in Southlake Aug. 22, 2016.
Rickie Keim talks to students about her favorite book for the first day of school at Jack D. Johnson Elementary in Southlake Aug. 22, 2016. Special to the Star-Telegram

Next week, the Carroll school board likely will vote to join the ranks of area schools to become a District of Innovation, with the most obvious change an earlier start to the 2018-19 school year.

House Bill 1842, enacted by the 2015 Texas Legislature, allows public schools to gain some of the flexibility of charter schools, including school start and end dates, student discipline and certain aspects of teacher contracts and certification.

Carroll is one of only a few area districts that haven’t become districts of innovation. To date, 17 of 20 districts in the Tarrant County area have taken advantage of the additional flexibility.

The Azle school district adopted their innovation plan earlier this month, and Northwest officials just started the process to study becoming a district of innovation. Aledo is the lone district to not have adopted a plan or be in process.

If Carroll’s plan is approved at the Dec. 4 school board meeting, classes could begin next year anytime after the second week of August instead of the mandatory date of the fourth Monday of the month.

“As a parent, I’m excited about the calendar,” Board President Sheri Mills said. “But outside of that, I think... being able to evaluate our teachers outside the criteria is probably more exciting than the calendar, especially from an administration standpoint, because it gives us some flexibility.”

At the Nov. 13 board meeting, Janet McDade, assistant superintendent of student services, said the Carroll plan specifies a preference for the third week in August and does not allow school to start before the second week.

District officials said the late start sometimes made for a short winter break because schools must finish in early June in time for summer school.

This year, Carroll’s winter break is just a week and a half instead of two weeks because the first day of school was Aug. 28. Sometimes parents opt to pull kids out of school for extra days around the break, which also reduces state funding.

The change also would allow school to finish near Memorial Day, instead of going into June, McDade said.

Other components of Carroll’s innovation plan include seeking exemptions from the requirement that all teachers have proper certification and from the student growth measure included in the state teachers’ appraisal system.

McDade said allowing teachers without certification in certain subjects could improve the quality of instruction in such areas as Career Technology Education, engineering and the arts. District officials plan to offer a local certification good only in Carroll schools so teachers in these areas meet some basic qualifications and are properly trained.

Carroll administrators plan to use most aspects of the Texas Teachers Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS), with the exception of the student growth measure.

“It’s hard to show growth for students who are already operating at 98 percent,” McDade said.

If trustees approve the plan, district officials would notify the state education commissioner and move forward with the exemptions.

Sandra J. Engelland: 817-390-7323, @SandraEngelland