Public hearing set for Houston ISD District of Innovation plan

HOUSTON, Texas -- The draft of Houston ISD's District of Innovation plan will see its first public hearing March 25, giving the wider community a chance to weigh in on the proposal, which has possible implications on the 2021-22 school calendar.

The HISD District Advisory Committee, a group composed of teachers, parents and community members, will hold the hearing prior to a vote on whether to advance the plan to final approval by the board of trustees, who could then take up the item in their April agenda. To speak during the comment session, residents must register in advance through this form.

In addition to two other measures, the plan would call for allowing the school district to begin classes before the state's official start date, the fourth Monday in August. By starting earlier, proponents said, students can get in more class time prior to the state-mandated assessments. Statewide, 890 districts are using this policy exemption.

"Should the board vote for the District of Innovation status in April, and if it's determined that it's in the best interest of students to start earlier in the school year, the earliest that we would be able to take a revised calendar to the board would be in May," Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer Rick Cruz said.

The plan itself was developed through a separate HISD District of Innovation Committee with one representative for each trustee district and six HISD staff members. More than 80 other stakeholders were consulted during focus group sessions as well.

"For such a large district, I think we've had pretty representative and really strong feedback in the process," said August Hamilton, a manager in the strategy and innovation office.

The trustees have the option to vote the plan down or strike a section from approval but otherwise cannot change the plan as it is written, Hamilton said.

In addition to the school start date, the two other key plan provisions call for removing the requirement for a teacher certification for career and technical education positions and allowing flexibility on the attendance rule that requires the physical presence of students for 90% of class time to earn credit. The plan states this flexibility could allow students to earn credit based on "mastery of skills as opposed to the amount of seat time."

A copy of the draft plan can be found on the HISD website.

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