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District of Innovation Plan

OVERVIEW

The District of Innovation concept, passed by the 84th Legislative Session in House Bill 1842, gives traditional independent school districts most of the flexibilities available to open-enrollment charter schools in Texas. Chapter 12 A of the Texas Education Code and TEA Rules specify allowable and prohibited exemptions for district consideration. Potential benefits of becoming a District of Innovation include:

Local Control: Districts can select the “allowable” flexibilities that best suit their local needs.

Customization: Districts can create a district-wide innovation plan, a “single campus” innovation plan, or an innovation plan for a particular level (e.g., only secondary, only elementary)

Autonomy: Districts must submit a District of Innovation Plan to the Commissioner of Education for review; but approval is not required.

Flexibility: Districts have the flexibility to implement practices similar to charter schools, including exemptions from certain Texas Education Code mandates.

In the Spring of 2017, the Port Arthur ISD Board of Trustees adopted a Five-Year Strategic Plan, reflecting the engagement and efforts of stakeholders to chart the district’s and community’s path to continued progress. The Six Strands of the Five-Year Strategic Plan–Climate/Culture, Curriculum/Instruction, District Operations, Family/Community Engagement, Literacy, and Teacher Quality–support the attainment of the aforementioned Strategic Plan Goals. Revisions to this Strategic Plan were made and approved by the Board of Trustees in 2021.  The Port Arthur ISD Innovation Plan developed according to the following process and timeline, affords the school district flexibility from specific legal requirements, otherwise potentially restrictive. The Innovation Plan, effective for up to five years, can only be amended, rescinded, or renewed by a majority vote of the District Planning and Innovation Committee (DPIC), a 2/3 majority vote by the Board, and notice to TEA of the exemptions and approval dates.

On October 6, 2022, the District Planning and Innovation Committee (DPIC) convened in a meeting to discuss, provide feedback, and approve the final 2023-2028 District of Innovation Plan for Port Arthur ISD.

 

Timeline

Steps

Notes

Proposed Dates

Public Hearing on whether to develop a plan

Not Required

Not Required

The final version of the proposed plan on the website for at least 30 days

 

January 26, 2023

The Board of Trustees notifies the Commissioner of the Board’s intention to vote on the adoption of the proposed plan

Notification by the Superintendent on behalf of the Board of Trustees

February 27, 2023

The district-level committee holds a public meeting to consider the final version of the proposed plan and approved the plan.

District Planning and Innovation Committee (DPIC)

March 7, 2023

The Board of Trustees adopts the proposed plan.

Before expiration

March 23, 2023

District notifies the commissioner of plan approval.

 

March 24, 2023

The district provides a link/copy to TEA.

No later than the 15th day after the Board adoption

April 7, 2023

District posts plan on the website.

 

April 26, 2023

 

Term

The term of the Plan is for five years, beginning April 26, 2023, and ending April 26, 2028, unless terminated or amended earlier by the PAISD Board of Trustees in accordance with the law. If, within the term of this Plan, other areas of operations are to be considered for flexibility as part of the Texas Education Code, Subchapter 12A, the PAISD Board of Trustees will nominate a new committee to consider and propose additional exemptions in the form of an amendment. Any amendment adopted by the Board will adhere to the same term as the original plan. The District will not implement two separate plans at any one time.

Under Texas Education Code, Subchapter 12A, districts may identify specific requirements imposed by the Texas Education Code (TEC) “that inhibit the goals of the plan and from which the district should be exempted on the adoption of the plan. . .” because PAISD’s Strategic Plan and its local Innovation Plan are comprehensive and impact areas in the TEC, and because PAISD seeks to maximize local control of educational decisions for each student.

 

Comprehensive Educational Program

The District strategic plan guides Port Arthur ISD’s comprehensive educational program.

Vision

Port Arthur Independent School District will become the leader in continuous school improvement by ensuring each student receives a rigorous, high-quality education to achieve academic excellence.

Mission

Our mission, as the primary source of public education in the community, is to meet the unique educational needs of our diverse population by providing a comprehensive quality education for students of the Port Arthur Independent School District.

 

Beliefs

We believe:

  • Each person deserves a safe, supportive, and nurturing learning environment.
  • Each student, regardless of background, has unique gifts, strengths, and potential for achievement.
  • Equitable and rigorous learning experiences are vital for student success.
  • Respect for heritage and diversity builds community.
  • Compassionate and highly-motivated educators add life-long value to each student.
  • Mutual accountability and high expectations are essential for success.
  • Families, students, school, and community have a shared responsibility for the educational  success of each student.
  • A measure of the success of the community is the strength of its schools.

 

Objectives

  • 100% of PAISD students will graduate with a well-articulated path to college or career.
  • 100% of PAISD campuses and departments will have sufficient funds necessary to effectively operate.
  • 100% of PAISD families will be positively engaged in the educational process.
  • 100% of PAISD teachers will be certified and demonstrate competency in their specialized content area(s).
  • 100% of PAISD students will be taught using a vibrant, challenging, engaging curriculum that will ensure they are college or career-ready upon graduation.

 

Goals:

  1. We will provide positive, safe, and respectful learning environments.
  2. We will provide an aligned, rigorous curriculum that empowers each student to achieve high levels of academic success.
  3. We will partner with families and communities to increase family support and engagement in the educational process.
  4. We will attract, retain, and build capacity in employees by developing and enhancing learning environments.
  5. We will provide fiscal stability, accountability, and sufficient resources necessary to create an environment to support student success.

 

Goals/Strategies:

  1. We will provide positive, safe, and respectful learning environments.
    1. Implement the district student behavior management plan.
    2. Implement restorative practices.
  2. We will provide an aligned, rigorous curriculum that empowers each student to achieve high levels of academic success.
    1. Implement the curriculum to ensure high levels of achievement by each student.
    2. Develop an aligned district-wide system that cultivates college and career readiness.
    3. Develop vertical district-wide systems for clearly communicating and connecting staff to ensure student success.
  3. We will partner with families and communities to increase family support and engagement in the educational process.
    1. Develop and implement a plan to increase positive family engagement.
  4. We will attract, retain, and build capacity in employees by developing and enhancing the learning environment.
    1. Develop a district-wide promotional plan to recruit certified teachers.
    2. Develop an aligned district-wide teacher professional development system.
  5. We will provide fiscal stability, accountability, and sufficient resources necessary to create an environment to support student success.
    1. Develop a plan to find alternative funding sources and identify ways to increase revenues.
    2. Strengthen the district-wide plan to evaluate the use and implementation of our current resources.

 

PAISD seeks exemption from the following provisions of the Texas Education Code (TEC):

First Day of Instruction (Included in Original DOI Plan)

Texas Education Code §25.0811

Current Requirements

The first day of school may not be held prior to the fourth Monday of August.

Proposed

To allow for greater flexibility and responsiveness to student, teacher, family, and community needs in the calendar development process, Port Arthur ISD will be exempt from TEC 25.0811 and TEC 25.0812. Instead, Port Arthur ISD will have the flexibility to begin the school year earlier than the 4th Monday in August and end the school year earlier, as feasible.

Rationale

Adjustments to the first and last day of school will provide more days of uninterrupted instructional time through an earlier start and in preparation for end-of-year assessments, allow the district to better balance instructional days during the first and second semester, will enable the district to embed professional learning days and preparation days strategically; allow greater flexibility in scheduling holidays; better align the start date for district courses with university start dates, in support of co-enrollment students; and perhaps will enable us to better attract families who seek a non-traditional school calendar. Such adjustments will allow the district to develop a calendar that meets its stakeholders' diverse needs.

 

Student/Teacher Ratios and Class Size (New)

Texas Education Code §25.111, Texas Education Code §25.112, Texas Education Code §25.113

Current Requirements

Based on current state law, classes in grades pre-kindergarten through 4th may not exceed a ratio of 22 students to 1 teacher. When an individual class exceeds this ratio, the District must either add a new teacher, reassign teachers from other schools with lower student enrollment, or submit a waiver request to the Texas Education Agency. These waiver requests have not been rejected by TEA. In addition to the waiver request, it is required that a letter be sent to each parent in the class that exceeds the 22:1 ratio, informing them that the waiver has been submitted and the class exceeds the 22:1 ratio.

Proposed

To meet the needs of Port Arthur ISD students and staff, the District will continue to support planning, assign teachers to schools with growing student enrollments, review staffing ratios, and make decisions in the best interests of students while considering the District's financial capacity. When elementary classes exceed 22:1, students, district, and campus administrators will collaborate to develop a plan to support those classes. To avoid unnecessary and duplicative processes, PAISD will not submit a TEA waiver request when a PreK-4 classroom exceeds the statutory ratio, and notification to parents will not occur.

Rationale

This exemption allows Port Arthur ISD to utilize a more flexible class size approach based on student needs and the time of year.

 

Professional Employee Certification Requirements (New)

Texas Education Code §21.003, 21.051, 21.053, 21.055, 21.057, and 37.008(a)(7)

Current Requirements

TEC 21.003 states that a person may not be employed as a teacher, teacher intern, or trainee, librarian, educational aide, administrator, educational diagnostician, or school counselor by a school district unless the person holds an appropriate certificate or permit issued by the appropriate state agency.

TEC 21.051 requires an individual to have completed at least 15 hours of field-based experience that includes instructional or education activities before a school district can employ the individual as the teacher of record.

TEC 21.053 requires a teacher to present his or her certificate to the district before their employment contract will be binding and prohibits the district from paying an educator for teaching if the educator does not hold a valid certificate at the time.

TEC 21.055 identifies the criteria a school district must comply with before issuing a school district teaching permit including solicitation of consent from the Commissioner of Education for core subject area certification.

TEC 21.057 requires that school districts provide written notice to parents if an inappropriately certified or uncertified teacher is assigned to a classroom for more than 20 consecutive instructional days.

TEC 37.008(a)(7) requires teachers assigned to a school district’s Discipline Alternative Education Program to be certified in accordance with Chapter 21 of the education code.

Proposed

Flexibility is needed to exercise local control at both the District and campus levels to meet the District's mission and goals and to connect its practices and operations with its vision and core beliefs. Port Arthur ISD proposes that certification decisions be handled locally and approved by the Superintendent of Schools or his designee.

The District’s primary goal is to hire certified teachers; however, by hiring adjunct educators to teach certain courses, professionals will contribute their extensive subject-matter expertise and practical experience to the classroom. Following these exemptions, the District has developed local standards to determine when educators who are not certified are eligible to work in professional employee positions that historically required certification by the State Board for Educator Certification. This provision will allow the district flexibility in hiring professionals from technical fields, college instructors, and internal applicants seeking assignments outside their certification areas.  This exemption also applies to the associated requirements of field experience and parental notification and negates the need to request approval from the Commissioner of Education.

Rationale

An exemption from these requirements allows Port Arthur ISD to issue a school district teaching permit to individuals who do not hold a teaching certificate but whom the District deems best to teach in a particular area. Occasionally, teachers are needed for positions that are difficult to fill. Staff hired under a school district teaching permit will benefit from the same rights and responsibilities as certified teachers. After the required posting period and candidate interviews, the principal must specify in writing the reason for the request and document what specific credentials (i.e., experiences and expertise) the prospective teacher possesses that would qualify the individual to teach that subject(s). The District and campus will assess appropriate training needs for any teacher hired under this exemption. Finally, this is a local certification and does not transfer to another school district.

 

Teacher Mentors (New)

Texas Education Code §21.458

Current Requirements

Teachers must have three or more years of experience in the field to serve as mentors, limiting the possibility of allowing exceptional teachers with less than three years of experience to mentor novice teachers.

Proposed

The District seeks exemption from Section 21.458 to provide flexibility in designating exceptional teachers with less than three years of experience as mentors for novice teachers.

Rationale

An exemption from these requirements allows Port Arthur ISD to select outstanding teachers to serve as teacher mentors regardless of years of teaching experience. Selecting the best-qualified teachers as mentors benefits new-to-profession teachers.

 

Campus Behavior Coordinator Designation (New)

Texas Education Code §37.0012

Current Requirements

A person at each campus must be designated to serve as the campus behavior coordinator. The person designated may be the campus’s principal or any other campus administrator selected by the principal.

Proposed

The District seeks exemption from the campus behavior coordinator requirements.

Rationale

An exemption from these requirements allows campus principals to designate the responsibilities to more than one individual, including all campus administrators.

 

Removal of Unwanted Visitors (New)

Texas Education Code §37.105

Current Requirements

For unruly guests at school functions or events, a school district must first give a warning before he or she is ejected. Upon ejection, the guest must also be given notice of how he or she can appeal the ejection.

Proposed

The District will make all reasonable attempts to diffuse situations in the case of unruly guests at school and District functions and events. However, in situations where immediate action is needed, the District would allow designated staff members the authority to remove an attendee whose behavior is deemed inappropriate without warning or written notice regarding the appeal process.

Rationale

An exemption from these requirements allows Port Arthur ISD to ensure the safety of students and staff at schools and district events.

 

Original DOI Plan (2017)