The Humble ISD District Decision Making Committee approved the plan for the school district to become a District of Innovation (DOI) at a public meeting held Aug. 2. The issue began May 20 when the Texas Education Agency denied Humble ISD's waiver request for early release and late arrival days. The district has been granted the waiver for the past 10 years. Then-superintendent Dr. Guy Sconzo was advised that the district’s only option was to become a DOI in order to keep early release and late arrival intact for the start of the 2016-17 school year.

After nearly a month, the board held a public meeting June 21 and appointed a DOI committee of hand-picked stakeholders across the district, including teachers, parents, campus administrators and local business owners. Within nine days, the committee met and drafted a Local Innovation Plan, which was posted on the district website for 30 days, per state requirement. 

The state also requires that the committee present the proposed plan to the existing District Decision Making Committee during a public meeting; the makeup of that committee is determined by state statute. Deputy Superintendent Dr. Thomas Price facilitated the Aug. 2 meeting, attended by the 13 DOI committee members, 27 visitors, and the 39-member District Decision Making Committee, which unanimously approved the DOI plan. The plan was approved by trustees at the regular board meeting Aug. 9.

Dr. Elizabeth Fagen began her role as superintendent July 5, and received questions about the DOI at all three town hall meetings. She assured residents that, while adoption of the DOI was “bad timing” because it coincided with the start of her tenure as superintendent, the DOI was nothing more than a mechanism for Humble ISD to keep longstanding practices in place.

The DOI plan not only included the flexibility on the length of the instructional day (e.g. early release/late arrival option), it also included several other items that could have been addressed by procedures.

Class Size

Since Humble ISD annually seeks class size waivers, they chose to include class size in the DOI plan to avoid being caught off guard by a future waiver denial. Under the plan, grades K-3 would have 22 or fewer students per classroom and 24 or fewer students for grade 4, sizes that the district says are all consistent with current practices. The DOI plan allows flexibility in situations where new students move to the district mid-year and cause a class size to exceed the cap. Since it is not always in the best interest of children to hire a new teacher and create a new class just because of one more student, the DOI status allows Humble ISD to supplement the existing class with another teacher or classroom aide. The plan does not address class sizes in grades 5 -12 because there is no state mandate to limit those class sizes. Humble ISD maintains that class sizes in grades 5-12 will remain the same regardless of District of Innovation status: almost all fifth-grade classes have 25 or fewer students, and most middle and high school classes have about 30 students. Humble ISD hires one grade 5 teacher for every 25 students, one grades 6-8 teacher for every 27.5 students, and a grades 9-12 teacher for every 28.5 students. These ratios do not include the special education teachers who are hired to provide additional specialized instruction.

Teacher certification for Career and Technical Education instructors

Humble ISD would like flexibility to employ instructors who lack teacher certification but possess industry experience for certain courses, such as welding, nursing, or law enforcement, when a quality certified teacher is unavailable. 

District officials say they have no plans to make changes beyond the scope of the Aug. 2 approved plan. They are limited to the current exemptions in the plan, and can only change the scope of the DOI by undertaking a similar process to this summer’s timeline – a public hearing, public meetings and posting on the district website for 30 days. There can be no changes without public communication, input and transparency, according to state statutes.

Last year, a handful of districts in Texas became DOIs. This year, around 50 of the more than 1,200 state school districts have indicated their intention to do so. The district’s proposed plan is on humbleisd.net and a previous Tribune story can be found here: http://ourtribune.com/article.php?id=20595.

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