11 SA area school districts can hire teachers without certification

SAN ANTONIO - Do you know if your child's school district is a DOI?

It stands for District of Innovation and even though it is a relatively new designation, about 2 thirds of Texas school districts already have it.

Roughly 700 out of 1023 Texas public school districts are Districts of Innovation.

Basically the status allows for certain exceptions to the Texas Education Code and more local control.

Among the most common exceptions that school boards have voted in:

1. Optional Teacher Certification (11 of 12 area districts)

2. Minimum Minutes of Classroom Instruction (8 of 12 area districts)

3. Class Size (7 of 12 area districts)

4. Adjustments to School Calendar (11 of 12 area districts)

"It doesn't make sense to have one set of schools where they have all this flexibility and these rights and abilities and then you have another school or series of schools that don't," said District 123, Texas State Representative, Diego Bernal.

Bernal is referring to some of the exceptions granted to charter schools in Texas.

He explained his vote for House Bill 1842 was about equity of opportunity for all Texas school children.

A school parent News 4 interviewed, who prefers to be identified only as Mary, said it may be good for some districts, but not for all.

"I feel that is is just a way for the administration to make rules and guidelines as they see it," Mary said.

To become a District of Innovation, a school board has to post their plan and the exceptions they want online 30 days prior to voting on it.

After that, the board has the power to push it through and the DOI status is good for 5 years.

"Once they vote on their plan, if the plan is approved, they then are required to notify the commissioner that they approved the plan and are required to provide to him the list of exemptions that they are planning to exempt themselves from," said Texas Education Agency Spokeswoman, Lauren Callahan.

TEA reviews the plans but they don't have approval authority.

"Texas PTA believes very strongly that local decision makers should chart their path for what's best for students and their school districts," said Texas PTA Executive Director, Kyle Ward.

Many of the DOI schools are now able to hire teachers without a traditional teaching certification.

"When it comes to certification, that was a way to get professionals into the teaching pipeline," Bernal said.

"I know the majority of them are certified teachers but my concern is with this ability they could easily choose teachers that are not certified," Mary said.

She said she has talked to several teachers at her child's school who say now that they have DOI status, there is pressure to keep it and that means primarily focusing on keeping test scores up.

"They can not perform up to par because they're teaching to the test, the test, the test and if they don't pass the test, then they may get that DOI pulled," Mary said.

If a district gets an unacceptable academic rating 2 years in a row, the TEA Commissioner could terminate their DOI status.

It's too soon to determine whether the designation has proven to be good or bad in most districts.

Bernal believes good things are happening as a result of the districts of innovation, but he also thinks it's important to keep a watchful eye.

"We have to be hyper-vigilant because we're dealing with kids," Bernal said. "I'm not saying we're good walk away; I'm saying it looks ok right now, now we can't take our eye off of it."

Ward reminds parents who don't agree with the decisions of their school board members, their power is at the polls.

Here is the list San Antonio area school districts that have DOI status and a link to their individual plans/exemptions:

Ft. Sam Houston ISD / DOI plan

  • First and Last Day of Instruction
  • Length of Instructional Day
  • Teacher Certification
  • Minimum Attendance for Credit
  • District-Level and Site-Based Decision-Making

Edgewood ISD / DOI plan

  • Class Size Ratio
  • Minimum Minutes of Instruction
  • Teacher Certification
  • First and Last Day of Instruction

Lackland ISD / DOI plan

  • First and Last Day of Instruction
  • Seven-hour school day
  • Class size and student/teacher ratio
  • Chapter 21 Employment Contracts
  • Teacher Certification
  • Minimum attendance
  • Student Discipline provision

Randolph Field ISD / DOI plan

  • First and last day of instruction
  • Length of instruction
  • K-4 Class size
  • Teacher certification
  • Probationary contracts
  • Professional Development
  • 90% attendance rule
  • Teacher contract days
  • Local school health advisory counsel
  • Disciplinary alternative program
  • Teacher/administrator appraisals

SAISD / DOI plan

  • Class size
  • Length of Instructional Day
  • First and Last Day of Instruction

Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City ISD / DOI plan

  • Teacher certification
  • Teacher appraisal
  • Start date

South San Antonio ISD / DOI plan

  • First and Last Day of instruction
  • Minimum attendance
  • Minimum minutes of instruction
  • Teacher certification
  • Class size
  • Free kindergarten (allow younger kids)

Southwest ISD / DOI plan

  • First and Last Day of Instruction
  • Teacher probationary contracts
  • Campus behavior coordinator
  • Class size
  • Teacher certification
  • Minimum attendance for class credit

Jourdanton ISD / DOI plan

  • First and Last Day of Instruction
  • Probationary contracts
  • Teacher certification

Karnes City ISD / DOI plan

  • First and Last Day of Instruction
  • Teacher Certification Requirements
  • Minimum Minutes of Instruction per Day
  • Probationary Contracts
  • Minimum Service Required

Lytle ISD / DOI plan

  • Teacher certification
  • Submitting waivers for Kindergarten – Grade 4 Class size

LaVernia ISD / DOI plan

  • First and Last Day of Instruction
  • Length of school day
  • 90% attendance rule
  • Teacher certification
  • Designation of Campus Behavior Coordinator

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