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JISD votes to explore District of Innovation, board member says trust in leadership is lacking - KJAS.COM: Local News

JISD votes to explore District of Innovation, board member says trust in leadership is lacking

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Posted: Tuesday, October 9, 2018 1:03 pm

The Jasper Independent School District Board of Trustees met in regular session on Monday evening.

The meeting included a majority vote approving an action item on the agenda which was read aloud by School Board President LeQuin Hilderbrand as “A resolution regarding the process of exploring the District of Innovation in Jasper ISD”. Although it received a majority 4-3 vote, it was followed by heated discussion with Board Members Stephanie Martindale and Vickie Stewart contending that the issue required a 66% approval by the board, which would have been a 5-2 vote.

However, Board Member Tom Webb argued that passing the resolution only required a majority vote, and the 66% vote would only came into play if the board was trying to adopt a plan under DOI.

A motion to approve the item was made by Van Cammack and seconded by Steven Martinez, and those voting for were Cammack and Martinez along with LeQuin Hilderbrand and Tom Webb, while those voting against were Mark Durand, Stephanie Martindale, and Vickie Stewart.

District of Innovation (DOI) is a program which Superintendent Dr. Gerald Hudson has been touting for the last year. Dr. Hudson was not present at the meeting; KJAS News was told that he is out of town, so Director of Operations Jon Seybold sat in for Hudson.

Of course the common tax payer is probably wondering, “What exactly is District of Innovation?”

KJAS News explored DOI on the Texas Education Agency (TEA) website and we discovered that numerous school districts across the state already have it implemented.

As for what it is and what it does, in layman’s terms, it appears that the program is available to school districts that meet a certain academic accountability rating, and once implemented it appears that the program allows the school district to choose its own curriculum and instructional methods, the size of classes (teacher to student ratio), along with allowing community participation, campus governance, and parental involvement.

Additionally, according to the TEA website, the program allows the school districts to choose which dates the school year begins and ends, along with length of the school day.

Board President LeQuin Hilderbrand said that he has had conversations with about fifty school district officials across the state which have implemented DOI, and he said that all of them agree that they like it. He said the only negative thing he heard about DOI was one particular district that said that they made a mistake by choosing to start their school year too early.

Board Member Vickie Stewart said that’s all well and good, but only if you have complete trust in the administration of the school district, and she says that’s lacking. Stewart said “I haven’t spoken to fifty different districts, but I have spoken to some districts and the one thing every one of them have repeatedly said; ‘In order to go to District of Innovation, your board better have 100% trust in its leadership’. And, for various reasons, that trust isn’t here - with this board”.

KJAS News copied the following information directly from the TEA website about DOI:


Am I eligible?

•Yes—if district academic accountability rating is met


•No—if final or preliminary rating is Improvement Required

How do I become an Innovation District?

•Process begins either with a board of trustees resolution or by signed petition from a majority of your district-level advisory committee

•Board conducts a public hearing to consider developing an innovation plan

•Within 30 days of public hearing Board must formally decided to pursue or decline the opportunity

We are moving forward!

• Board appoints an Innovation Plan committee to write a plan that:

• provides for a comprehensive educational program for the district, which program may include:

• (A) innovative curriculum, instructional methods, and provisions regarding community participation, campus governance, and parental involvement;

• (B) modifications to the school day or year;

• (C) provisions regarding the district budget and sustainable program funding;

• (D) accountability and assessment measures that exceed the requirements of state and federal law; and

• (E) any other innovations prescribed by the board of trustees; and

• identifies requirements imposed by this code that inhibit the goals of the plan and from which the district should be exempted on adoption of the plan.

We have a plan…now what?

•Post on your district website for at least 30 days

•Board notifies the Commissioner of intent to adopt plan

•Your Chapter 11 district committee holds a public meeting to consider and approve the final version with a majority vote

•Board of Trustees adopted with two-thirds majority vote

But wait! There is one more thing…

Notify the Commissioner!!

Prohibited exemptions include (but not limited to):

• District Governance

• Curriculum

• State Assessment System

• State Accountability System

• School Finance

• Federal Requirement

• Other requirements in state law outside of the Education Code

•Allowable exemptions include (but not limited to):

• Educator Certification

• Teacher Contracts

• First and Last Day of School

• Length of School Day

• Class Size

• Certain Purchasing and Contract Requirements

Things to consider…

• Do you need to update local policies to correspond with new exemptions?

• Articulate the problem your plan is addressing.

• Is there a program you are trying to implement?

• Is there a big area of need that can be addressed by this flexibility?

• Involve all of your stakeholders, including those who do not always agree with you.