Waco ISD to start process of district innovation

Posted at 4:21 PM, Feb 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-07 00:24:38-05

Monday night, Waco ISD district will host a public meeting to discuss some of the proposed exemptions for the District of Innovation plan. 

In the 84th Session of the Texas Legislature, lawmakers created the idea of Districts of Innovations. Under this distinction, school districts are allowed exemptions from certain sections of the Texas Education Code.  The idea behind the project is to give more local control of education.

Waco ISD began the process last year.

A Quality District Advisory Council (QDAC) put together a list of  nine exemptions. The ideas are a a collaborative effort of the QDAC, a mix of teachers, educators, parents,  and others in the district Some of the ideas include changes to the school calendar, minimum attendances and absences, and student discipline. 

Waco ISD teacher, Kelli Barron said her time in the classroom has exposed some of the issues with one-size fits all policy.  "I have two students this year who are consistently late. They are consistently missing the state-allotted time."  The students aren't late because they don't care, many of them have extenuating circumstances.  "One students  family has had significant car trouble on more than one occasion he ended up walking to four miles to school unexpectedly,," Barron said. 

The district is  looking to make a change with the current Student attendance policy. One exemption would change when students are marked absent. Currently state policy requires a student not in class at 9:30 to be marked absent. The exemption would allow students who arrived at 9:45 and stayed to receive at least four hours of credit for attendance.

Waco ISD Assistant Superintendent, Yolanda Williams said after getting feedback they were able to tailor policies to help students.  "What we would like to do is give us a little more flexibility at the local level to meet the needs of our students and because we would have that flexibility it would only be an improvement for our campuses."

Class size ratio is one area the district is looking for an exemption.

Currently, state standards dictate a class size of 22 students to 1 teacher so a new student would mean that the class would need to be split into two smaller classes. In the exemption, the district would be able to add a student in special circumstances.

Tonight following public input the QDAC will vote on exemptions. After 30 days the exemptions will be voted on by the district board of trustees. The Board can either accept them or deny them, they are not allowed to make any changes. 

If approved, the district will contact the TEA and the changes will go into effect the start of the school year. 

The public meeting will be held at Waco ISD 501 Franklin Avenue at 5 p.m. The full list of exemptions can be read here

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