District of Innovation
This fall, a committee of teachers, administrators and parents has been exploring becoming a “District of Innovation.” That designation was created during the legislature’s last session to allow school districts to receive some (but not all) of the same exemptions from the Texas Education Code that charter schools receive.
Belton ISD's proposed District of Innovation Plan addresses three major areas of the Texas Education Code: teacher certification, minimum attendance for class credit or final grade, and first day of instruction.
First, it can be difficult to recruit people from industry to fill certain teaching positions in the career and technical education program. If adopted, the plan would allow the district to hire individuals without a teaching certification and/or bachelor’s degree to teach classes in law enforcement, health science, culinary arts, construction trades and automotive technology. Those are the only positions that would be exempted from the existing certification requirements, and anyone hired under that exemption would be an at-will employee.
Next, Belton ISD is interested in developing options for online dual credit courses as well as options for courses that blend online learning with classroom instruction. Both would allow juniors and seniors the opportunity to complete at least some coursework from home or in other locations outside of the classroom. To make that possible, the plan would exempt those courses from the requirement that students must be in attendance for at least 90 percent of the days that a class is offered to receive credit.
Finally, there has been interest in a calendar that would end classes before the start of summer sessions at area colleges and universities, so students (especially graduating seniors) could participate in those sessions. Seeking an exemption from the requirement that instruction begin no earlier than the fourth Monday in August is the only way to do that and still allow students to be off with their families for federal holidays.
The school board will hold a public hearing on the plan on January 23, 2017 and will vote on whether or not to approve the plan at their meeting in February. If approved, the exemptions will be valid for five years.