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CCISD’s defeated District of Innovation proposal explained

Posted at 5:21 PM, Apr 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-17 18:54:31-04

It’s been a hot topic for two years; educators within the Corpus Christi Independent School District have been split on whether to become a district of innovation.

Last week, the CCISD Board of Trustees failed to pass a DOI calendar for the second year in a row.

But what does it mean to be a District of Innovation?

Essentially, being a District of Innovation allows districts to exempt themselves from certain state laws.  They include changing the school calendar,  waiving the 90 percent attendance rule, adjust class size ratios, allow districts the power to make certain decisions, and adjust disciplinary provisions, use of planning periods, and teacher appraisal requirements.

Of those seven, CCISD was only interested in one, changing the calendar.  However, opponents aren’t convinced changing the calendar actually helps students.

Eighty percent of Texas districts have passed some kind of District of Innovation plan since the state legislature introduced DOI in 2015.  Most popular, starting the school year before the fourth Monday in August.

“If you go and you look at their calendars, their calendars are much more flexible than what we can provide,” said CCISD Board President Catherine Susser.

CCISD’s DOI proposal called for 176 educational days.  To do so, school would start the third Monday in August, allowing the district to give a week off at Thanksgiving, two weeks for Winter Break, and a week for Spring Break.  It also allowed teachers professional development days during the school year.

“We had students that came forth that were begging us to do this,” said Susser.  “Principals, Athletic Directors, coaches, teachers.”

But opponents were worried the district would adopt other DOI provisions as well.

“It allows school districts to act as a charter school,” CCISD trustee Dr. Tony Diaz said.

However, proponents of DOI say steps were taken to ensure the district only adopted a DOI calendar.

“You can’t just opt-in to the other provisions, you have to specifically vote them in,” said Susser.  “It’s not a slippery slope.”

Diaz was one of three board members to vote against DOI twice.  The others were Marty Bell and Alice Upshaw Hawkins.  Diaz says he’s not convinced DOI actually helps students succeed.

“I’ve studied DOI, all the pros and cons,” said Diaz.  “There’s nothing innovative about District of Innovation.”

Diaz says he wants to see data from current Districts of Innovation which show drastic student improvement before he considers supporting DOI.

DOI received four of seven votes both times it came before CCISD’s board. But under district rules, it needed five votes to be implemented.

Susser says it’s unlikely the district will consider DOI again unless one of the three ‘no’ votes can be swayed.