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AISD looks into becoming "innovation" district

Austin Monitor
March 9, 2016

Austin Monitor

On Monday, the Austin Independent School District board of trustees heard a proposal that could provide the district with more flexibility in its establishment of school hours, student-to-teacher ratios and teacher benefits, among other things. According to AISD Superintendent Paul Cruz, the move - pursuing designation as a "District of Innovation" - could give AISD the wiggle room it needs to implement novel changes.

Texas lawmakers created the "District of Innovation" concept in the most recent legislative session. In short, it allows public school districts – or parts of them – to operate in a manner similar to charter schools. Presenting the concept to trustees at their board dialogue meeting Monday, Cruz said AISD could seek the District of Innovation designation at the campus, primary school, secondary school or district-wide level.

"It might help us in some ways to really do some things differently," Cruz said, "including provide more autonomy (to campuses and the district). The essence here is something that I really like, and that's local control: the district, with this board of trustees, determining what's best for our kids."

According to an advisory memo put out by the Texas Association of School Boards in January, a school district might want to seek the new designation in order to pursue innovations in curriculum, instruction, governance, parent or community involvement, development of the school calendar or budgeting.

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