TCTA staff attorney Julie Leahy represented Georgetown teachers at a recent meeting at which the Georgetown ISD board of trustees discussed converting to an innovation district.

TCTA had been contacted by a Georgetown CTA member who noticed an item on the board meeting agenda regarding initiating the innovation district process. Leahy attended the meeting to convey the many concerns of the GCTA teachers.

TCTA fought the innovation district concept during the 2015 legislative session because of the potential for widespread elimination of teacher and student rights and protections. Indeed, the innovation district plan adopted in March by Spring Branch ISD exempts the district from “all permissible provisions” of the Texas Education Code (specific exemptions will require a two-thirds majority vote of the school board).

Many districts across the state are in various stages of pursuing the innovation district designation. High on the list of the exemptions being sought are the school start date, teacher certification, and class-size caps, although there has been considerable variation from district to district.

In Georgetown, where the school board is just beginning the process, Leahy informed trustees that their teachers are very wary about the innovation district concept and have grave concerns over what exemptions from state law might be considered and whether the school district properly constituted the district-level committee that must ultimately approve the final plan. She asked trustees, if they intended to move forward with the innovation district process, to delay the process until these concerns were addressed.

Board members seemed receptive to Leahy’s comments, but voted to approve the resolution beginning the process. A subsequent email from the GISD superintendent mentioned the possibility of exemptions from the school start date, curriculum and instruction methods, minimum minutes of instruction, teacher certification and contracts (noting that the latter two were “not driving our decision to consider the District of Innovation designation”). The superintendent estimated that the process would take close to a year, and TCTA’s legal team will continue to monitor and provide assistance to our members in this district.

TCTA strongly encourages our local affiliates to attend school board meetings, call the TCTA Legal Department (888-879-8282) if your district is considering the innovation district approach, and plan to provide input at board meetings and throughout the process. We urge our members to contact district officials to learn about the election process for the district-level committee, and to ensure that teachers (and especially informed TCTA members) are well represented on the committee.