The Huffman Independent School District Board of Trustees unanimously voted to authorize an evaluation toward becoming a District of Innovation (DOI) at its meeting Aug. 1. It took the action after hearing a detailed explanation of potential school district opportunities created by the 2015 Texas legislative session under House Bill 1842. Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Joel Nolte conducted a public hearing just prior to the formal board meeting to explain the proposal to members of the general public and the trustees.
“In the spring of 2015, the 84th legislative session provided Texas public school districts the opportunity to be designated as Districts of Innovation,” said Nolte. “Once designated, these districts may be exempted for up to five years from a number of state statutes which currently govern the districts. It allows districts to exempt themselves from certain rules, policies, codes and practices. It is designed to give districts more local control to achieve more innovative plans related to their children.”
Nolte explained the objective is to give the traditional school districts most of the flexibilities of open-enrollment charter schools. To become a DOI, a plan to do so must be initiated by the board or by a petition signed by a majority of members of a district-level advisory committee, which was the purpose of the current proposal before the board: to proceed with the evaluation through creation of a Huffman ISD District of Innovation planning committee.
The committee will evaluate the various opportunities and will report to the board its findings and proposed specific plans. If approved by the board, the plan will be publicly posted and, after a 30-day notice period, a public meeting will be held for public input. A final plan will then be developed for board approval.
Nolte said that as a DOI, Huffman may be able to have: (1) greater local control as the decision-maker over the educational and instructional model for students; (2) increased freedom and flexibility with accountability relative to state mandates that govern educational programming; and (3) empowerment to innovate and think differently.
Nolte explained that it might greatly improve the ability to be more flexible regarding classroom days, late arrival policies and class sizes in terms of numbers of students per class.
Trustee Jerry Jones asked about timing and scheduling. Nolte explained that if all the required steps occurred at an expedited rate, it could be approved in September and the first parts of the plan could be implemented as early as October.
“We’d like to start as soon as we could and we have to do a good job with the information going out to the parents. That is going to be the most important thing,” Nolte said.
In other business, trustees approved a number of pending items required for the start of the 2016-17 school year. It authorized an additional full-time employee position for a speech and language pathologist, approved the 2016-17 Student Code of Conduct and the 2016-17 District Employee Handbook, and selected the Coca-Cola Company as its cold beverage vending service company for the coming year.
The board also called and ordered a general election to be held Nov. 8 for the purpose of electing four trustees to the board for the expiring four-year terms of Positions 4, 5 and 6, and for a special election to be held on the same day for the unexpired two-year term of Position 1.
The next board meeting will be Monday, Aug. 22, at 7 p.m. in the Board Room of the Huffman ISD Administration Building, 24302 FM 2100.