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AISD approves developing District of Innovation plan

Thursday, November 10, 2016 by Courtney Griffin

At Monday’s special meeting, the Austin Independent School District board of trustees voted 7-0-1 to develop a District of Innovation plan for AISD and its campuses. Vice President Paul Saldaña abstained, saying he did not have enough information to comfortably place his vote. At-Large Trustee Gina Hinojosa was absent. Texas lawmakers created the “District of Innovation” concept in the most recent legislative session. It allows public school districts – or parts of them – to operate in a manner similar to charter schools. In short, AISD could exempt itself from state requirements regarding teacher certifications, teacher contracts, class sizes, length of school days and school year requirements, among others. AISD is not allowed to exempt itself from testing, financial, curriculum or federal requirements. Once AISD drafts a plan outlining programming and the exemptions it intends to implement under its new District of Innovation concept, an approximately 25-member district advisory council must approve it. After that, a supermajority from the board must approve the plan as well. A District of Innovation plan can remain in place for up to five years, and it does not need approval from the Texas Education Agency after AISD’s board votes on it. The plan may include the entire district or particular campuses, with exemptions possibly varying from campus to campus. Jacob Reach, AISD assistant to the superintendent, said the district is projecting that AISD will become a District of Innovation in 2018.

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