Leander ISD Trustees move forward with District of Innovation plan

Plan's focus set on calendar flexibility


Area students could get out of school a week earlier starting with the 2018-19 school year if Leander ISD follows through on pursuing an exemption that allows the school year to start and end a week earlier than the current calendar. 

Officials told the school board that the district has received a number of complaints about the current calendar, which ends school on June 8. State law says public schools can't start before the fourth Monday of August or end before May 15.

School districts which apply for and receive 'District of Innovation' status receive an exemption from the state board of education allowing them to start a week earlier, said LISD superintendent Dan Troxell.

If the plan is approved, Leander ISD would join more than 100 school districts in Texas.

“The entire reason we’re even considering this is because we’ve gotten a lot of negative feedback from the community about the late calendar dates in June,” Superintendent Dan Troxell said. 

Troxell said some parents have complained the June dates interfere with family vacations, enrolling in ACC courses and high school remediation courses.

However,  the four citizens who appeared at the school board's the Dec. 7 meeting to speak on the issue were all against the district pursuing DOI status, raising concerns about the other exemptions a DOI could potentially grant. 

“DOI is too drastic an approach to the calendar issue,” said Becky Brumley, an LISD parent of 11 years with two students at Glenn High School. “Who’s to say LISD won’t pursue other exemptions in the future? Be more farsighted and pursue other options. We may be opening a door for things we don’t want.”

After hearing public input, Trustees directed the district to move forward with the plan. The district will form a committee comprised of at least seven teachers and seven parents and community members, who will work to establish a District of Innovation statement.

Other nearby districts, such as Austin ISD and Round Rock ISD have used DOI status to seek exemptions for allowances for non-certified teachers to teach certain courses, and adjustments to the minimum attendance and minutes of instruction. However, the board limited Leander ISD's DOI plan to just calendar issues.

Due to the narrow goal of calendar flexibility, Troxell said the committee would likely only meet for one time for an hour at most to write a sentence stating the district would like DOI status for an exemption to start school earlier. 

After the committee forms its DOI plan, it will post it on the district website for a 30-day public review of the plan prior to the board’s final vote, which could be as early as February, with a calendar recommendation in early March 2018. 

Any additional exemptions sought within the DOI status would require a brand new DOI process, said the district's chief of staff Matt Smith. 

Typically, school funding remains the same for districts of innovation, but depending on how the calendar is manipulated, it could effect the district's available funding. 

A DOI plan can last up to five years for a term, but it can be reviewed or changed along the way. However, it takes a majority vote from the district-wide Educational Improvement Committee and a two-thirds vote from the board of trustees to amend or end a plan, Smith said.