by Dr. Kristi Lee
Visit with any district leader in Texas, and he or she will likely tell you there are state mandates and regulations that often make the job of teachers and school leaders much more challenging than necessary and do little to further a district’s goals. Whether it’s a new rule, more paperwork, or a time-consuming process, school districts often feel the burden of the Texas Education Code with little recourse but to appeal to legislators for relief.
The 84th Texas Legislature answered that appeal with the District of Innovation concept, a label that sounds fancy, but in reality, is simply a move to return more local control to school districts and the communities they serve.
The Bastrop ISD Board of Trustees recently joined a growing list of districts across the state by approving a resolution to initiate the process of becoming a District of Innovation. They also approved a local committee to examine those rules in the Code that most hinder the district and what innovative solutions may exist.
The 59-member local innovation committee--made up of parents, teachers, business leaders, community members, school/district administrators, students, board trustees, and teacher organization representatives--has already met twice to explore the options that make the most sense for Bastrop ISD. Another meeting is set for next week to develop the first draft of a plan.
Some areas in which the district may consider exemptions from the Texas Education Code relate to curriculum, instructional methods, campus/district governance, and modifications to the school calendar. The committee may also examine options in Career and Technical Education that could give the district flexibility in recruiting and hiring the best talent in key industries, a move that could have a positive impact on student learning in the classroom. This chart from the Texas Association of School Boards lists the various innovation plans of other districts around the state with explanations of exemption areas.
The innovation plan is expected to be unique to Bastrop, incorporating local values, needs, and the goals that are important to this community. A draft of the local innovation plan will be made available to the community on the Bastrop ISD District of Innovation webpage so that the committee can collect feedback and hear from constituents. The local innovation plan, if approved, would be in place for five years, although the committee would maintain the flexibility to review and make adjustments during that timeframe.
Dr. Kristi Lee is the Executive Director of Communications & Community Services for Bastrop ISD. Readers with questions about Bastrop ISD or about the District of Innovation process may call 512-772-7106 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.