Huntsville ISD to pursue renewal of District of Innovation designation

Joseph Brown | The ItemA crowd gathered at a Huntsville ISD Board of Trustees meeting earlier this year. 

Huntsville ISD is seeking to maintain its status as a District of Innovation, with its first public hearing scheduled later this month. 

The District of Innovation designation, which was first established by the Texas Legislature in 2015, allows school districts with accountability ratings of "C" or above to utilize certain exemptions related to class sizes, school year schedules, and teacher contracts and certifications.

Two of the major impact for Huntsville ISD is the ability to adopt a flexible school calendar, and also hire teachers with specific work and career experiences that may not hold traditional teaching certificates.

“The [District of Innovation] designation allows us to build a school calendar that reflects the priorities of our local staff, students, parents and community members, rather than being forced to start on a date in late August specified by the state,” HISD Superintendent Scott Sheppard said. “The ability to start the year earlier than mandated is critical, allowing us to take major holidays off, which is an important tradition, and still end the school year in May. We are a traditional community in Huntsville, so building a calendar to reflect the traditional school year has been very important to us.

“The human resources component of our plan gives Huntsville ISD the flexibility to hire teachers with specific work and career experience, especially for career and technology courses, that may not hold a traditional teaching certificate. This flexibility and local control allows us to tap into some talented individuals with real life career experiences to benefit our students in select courses.”

Huntsville ISD began pursuing its first innovation district designation in fall 2016 and approved its initial plan that November.

Sheppard said that there will be no major changes in the district's five-year renewal.

The public meeting is currently scheduled for 4 p.m. on Nov. 30 via Google Meets. A link to the meeting will be provided on the district’s website: www.huntsville-isd.org

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