District of Innovation
Becoming a District of Innovation
On July 20, 2020, the Sierra BlancaISD Board of Trustees adopted a resolution to explore becoming a District of Innovation. Becoming a District of Innovation offers public school districts various opportunities for increased flexibility with state statutes in order to better serve students and the community.
The resolution confirms the Board’s commitment to pursuing and following the process outlined in state legislation. After the adoption of a resolution, the next step is to hold a public hearings, which are scheduled via zoom at the August 17, 2020 Board Meeting as well at Sierra Blanca School.
This public hearing is an opportunity for feedback from district stakeholders, which will be essential throughout the process.
What is a District of Innovation?
The District of Innovation concept was passed by the 84th Legislative Session in House Bill 1842. Becoming a District of Innovation gives traditional independent school districts most of the flexibilities available to Texas' open enrollment charter schools. To access these flexibilities, a school district must adopt an innovation plan, as set forth in Texas Education Code Chapter 12A.
The potential benefits of becoming a District of Innovation include the following:
Local control: Districts are able to decide which flexibilities best suit their local needs.
Customization: Districts can create an innovation plan for a level of school (e.g., only high schools), grade level, or a single campus.
Autonomy: Districts must submit a district of innovation plan to the Commissioner of Education, but approval is not required.
Flexibility: Districts will have the flexibility to implement practices similar to charter schools, including exemptions from mandates such as:
- School start date
- 90% attendance rule
- Required minutes
- Teacher Hiring and Certification
- Transfer Revocation
Why would a school district choose to pursue this option?
A local school district may want to pursue specific innovations in curriculum, instruction, governance, parent or community involvement, school calendar, budgeting, or other ideas. An innovation plan also allows a school district to gain exemption from many Texas Education Code requirements.
Essentially, innovation plans will be about local control. Each district will pursue designation as a District of Innovation for different reasons, and no two plans may look the same. Community members should note that each innovation plan will be unique to the local school district. The experiences of other school districts may be informative, but they may not directly relate to the purpose or progress of a plan in another district.
What process is required to adopt an innovation plan?
The process is initiated by either:
- a resolution of the Board of Trustees; or
- a petition signed by a majority of the members of the district-level advisory committee.
- After the resolution or petition, the Board must hold a public hearing to consider whether the district should develop an innovation plan. At the conclusion of the hearing or soon thereafter, the board may decline to pursue the designation as a District of Innovation or appoint a committee to develop a plan.
- The appointed committee drafts a plan. The plan must:
- provide for a comprehensive educational program for the district which may include innovations in curriculum, instructional methods, community and parent involvement, campus governance, modifications to the school day or year, budgeting and sustainable funding, local accountability, and other innovations prescribed by the Board; and
- identify the Texas Education Code provisions from which the District of Innovation should be exempted, within the parameters described above.
- The plan has to be posted online for 30 days, the Commissioner has to be notified of the plan, and the committee will hold a public meeting to review the plan.
- The Board of Trustees may then vote to approve the plan.
How long does an innovation plan stay in effect?
The plan may have a term of up to five years, and it may be amended, rescinded, or renewed. An amendment to an approved plan does not change the date of the term of designation as a District of Innovation, and exemptions that were already formally approved need not be reviewed.
Additional information about District of Innovation and a list of current Districts of Innovation can be accessed at the