District of InnovationIn the fall of 2016, a committee of teachers, administrators and parents explored becoming a “District of Innovation.” That designation was created during the legislature’s 2015 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. Since its adoption, the plan has allowed 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 are exempted from the existing certification requirements, and anyone hired under that exemption will 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 will allow juniors and seniors the opportunity to complete at least some coursework from home or in other locations outside of the classroom. To make this possible, the plan exempts 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 held a public hearing on the plan on January 23, 2017, and the board adopted the plan at their meeting on February 27, 2017. The plan's exemptions will be valid for five years.
Belton ISD District of Innovation Plan