BCISD looks hard at local control
By Dave Rogers
For the Record
The Bridge City school district trustees have voted unanimously to move along a process they hope will lead to more local control for educating its 3,000 students.
The vote at the monthly board meeting created a District of Innovation Committee made up of trustees, district educators, parents and patrons. It will meet over the next three months to decide which, if any from a list of about a dozen, state requirements it would like to opt out of.
“The committee’s going to do the research and find out what’s going to fit our district,” Todd Lintzen, BCISD superintendent, said. “Just because you can apply for it, doesn’t mean we will.”
A District of Innovation is a concept passed by the Texas Legislature last year in House Bill 1842. It allows districts to create an innovation plan based on which flexibilities best suit local needs.
In an interview after Monday’s meeting, Lintzen singled out ditching the Uniform School start date as one place to start.
The state has required all schools to start the school year on the fourth Monday in August, which means for districts to get in the required 172 instruction days and still end their year around the start of June, time for professional development for teachers and staff is at a premium.
The superintendent wants to consider “starting maybe a week earlier possibly so that we could add professional development days throughout the year. That would provide us an opportunity for us to have professional development, possibly one each month for five months,” he said.
By becoming a District of Innovation, the superintendent could certify teachers independent of the state.
He used the example of a writing teacher that was certified to teach sixth graders but was more needed in the seventh grade.
“If you know how to teach writing as a sixth-grade teacher you’re going to know how to teach it as a seventh-grade teacher. So that’s a specific example of what we’d do,” he said.
“This way, they don’t have to go back to school and take tests. Sometimes, that takes a year or two, whereas this means they can help our students right away.”
Among other legal requirements BCISD could avoid by becoming a District Innovation are class size ratios, teacher appraisal system, school day interruptions and certain student discipline provisions.
“What the District of Innovation does is it gives you more local control,” Lintzen said. “There are eight or 10 or 12 things we could do, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to do all that.”
BCISD is a couple of months into what is a year-long suggested time line prepared for trustees by school administrators.
The plan is to decide by January on whether to go forward and, if so, to adopt a District Innovation Plan and notify the Texas Education Agency of intent to vote on its adoption.
After posting a plan on the district’s website for 30 days, the board would vote to approve the plan before the end of this 2016-17 school year, so that it can be in place for 2017-18.
Hardin-Jefferson trustees are expected to vote next week whether to approve that district’s plan and become a District of Innovation.
No other Southeast Texas is so far along in the process, but 35 other districts in the state already have the designation. They include El Paso, San Antonio and, in Houston, Spring Branch.
In other action Oct. 17, the board members accepted the District Improvement Plan for 2016-17 and the Evaluation for 2015-16.
The evaluation showed reading and writing had slipped in 2015-16 and those were areas addressed in the District Improvement Plan.
Attendance and truancy are getting a lot of attention. Gina Mannino, assistant superintendent, reported while the district had missed its 97 percent attendance goal by a point and a half in the last audit, the goal had been raised to 97.5.
In his report to the trustees, Lintzen reported that student attendance for the first six weeks was at 97.5 percent and that more than half of the district’s employees registered perfect attendance over that time.