Kilgore ISD is officially a district of innovation.
The Kilgore ISD Board of Trustees unanimously approved the designation Monday during a special meeting called specifically for the vote.
“This is a way for us to look at removing some barriers that might be in our way to continue to develop things for our students,” Kilgore ISD Superintendent Cara Cooke said introducing the action item. “That’s what this was all about. This was about what can we do to continue to create a learning environment for our students so they can have access to pathways and opportunities that we’ve never really had before. It’s a very exciting time, but with a change and with doing things different always is a little scary too.”
After approving the plan itself, the board went on to unanimously approve the adjusted calendar. The first day of school based on the approved calendar will be Aug. 21 with the end of school coming May 24. The approved calendar is available at kisd.org.
The plan allows the district to adjust the calendar to begin before the fourth Monday in August, a change which will align the two semesters with traditional holidays and will allow more planning days for teachers who choose to include more innovative, project-based lessons in their classrooms.
In another unanimous decision, the board approved the general staff development and subject area staff development waivers for the next three academic years. The waivers allow the teachers to receive credit for a school day – 420 minutes, by the state’s records – when in training or in-service workshops.
The approved plan also will adjust the minimum attendance requirement to receive class credit to include instruction time spent outside of the classroom – teachers will be allowed to conduct classes outside of the traditional classroom. An example is the rocketry students spending their class time at Kilgore Airport to launch their rockets.
The flexibility also allows administrators to create alternative plans for students who, due to unforeseeable circumstances, are not able to graduate through the traditional forms of attendance.
Trustee Trey Hattaway expressed some concern that a plan was not in place yet, but English and social studies curriculum and instruction director Zevely Hatcher assured him the plans would be personalized based on the student’s circumstance.
The circumstances can include students who must choose between school and working to provide for their family and students who are discouraged because they do not feel successful in a traditional school setting.
Plans for students can include teachers’ hours shifting to include flex hours before school to meet with students. No matter what, Cooke said, the plan will be required to meet the content and Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills requirements set by the state. The district also will not be allowed to exempt students from taking the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR) test.
The DOI plan also includes a personnel component, allowing the district to issue a District of Innovation certification for teachers in hard-to-fill positions but are not certified to teach in Texas public schools.
The teachers who could be granted the permit include Kilgore College instructors who have the qualifications but do not have the K-12 certification and industry professionals who have the skills to teach the class – such as an engineer teaching a math class – but do not have a teaching certification. It can also include a teacher who is certified to teach in public schools in another state but does not have a Texas teacher certification.
Any teachers receiving a special permit to teach in Kilgore ISD will be vetted before being granted the permit, and the local certification would only be accepted at KISD for one year for that particular class.
Kilgore Intermediate School Principal and District of Innovation Committee member Kim Slayter told the board only one math teacher certified to teach at the high school level attended at a recent job fair, meaning it is hard for both small and large school districts to fill positions, including math and science.
The five-year District of Innovation plan will be in place from April 10, 2017, until April 10, 2022, unless the board votes to change or eliminate the plan during that time. Before the end of the five-year term, Cooke said, the board will have an updated plan to approve for another five years if the District of Innovation plan works in KISD.