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DCISD Moves Ahead on “District of Innovation” Plan

Dell City ISD is moving forward toward becoming a “district of innovation,” after school board members approved the creation of a planning committee for the effort, at their monthly meeting Oct. 25.


“District of innovation” status would give the district new flexibility in setting the school schedule, and could allow for hiring uncertified personnel for teaching positions. At the Oct. 25 meeting, Supt. Ruben Cervantes said he wanted the district to be able to take advantage of expertise and experience in the community. He said that the district would continue to seek certified teachers for core academic subjects. But, he said, being a district of innovation would allow the district to hire local residents to teach career and technology courses – in areas such as law enforcement, emergency medical response and computer literacy.


“There's lots of talent in this community,” Cervantes said, “whether it's experience with agriculture, or retired law officers. We would like to offer students more electives – and right now, those folks can't teach.”


The Texas Education Agency created the district of innovation program to give public schools flexibility similar to that of charter schools, which are not necessarily required to hire certified teachers. Cervantes said many areas districts, including Valentine ISD, and most of the districts in El Paso County, are districts of innovation.


At present, Dell City ISD is required to start the school year on the fourth Monday of August – which means there are about 70 school days in the fall semester, compared to about 100 days in the spring. As a district of innovation, Dell City ISD might “balance the semesters,” Cervantes said, and begin the school year earlier in August, and end the year in May.


“That way we can start summer school and tutorials earlier,” he said, “so that students who have to re-take exams, for eligibility for graduation, can be prepared.”


The Oct. 25 meeting included a public hearing on the proposal. Though a number of community members were present, no member of the public chose to speak during the hearing.


The board's Oct. 25 vote approved the creation of an innovation plan committee, which will work out the details of the proposal. The committee's plan will come before the school board for review, and, once approved, would be submitted to the TEA. If approved by the TEA, the plan would be good for five years.


In other business at the Oct. 25 meeting, Cervantes and Principal Carlos Contreras told board members about recent work to improve school facilities.


Cervantes said district maintenance staffer JR Scrimshire has been doing excellent work across the campus. He recently completed repairs and improvements to the school's special-education room, and is currently at work transforming the room adjacent to the school's main office – a room that's been used as a teacher's lounge – into a “parent center.” The room will serve as a hub for parent and PTO meetings, and a space for parents and family members to work when they volunteer with the district. Scrimshire has also working to restore one of the cottages on the school campus, which will serve as teacher housing. Teachers are currently sharing the house provided to the superintendent.


Cervantes said projects Scrimshire will be working on next include the weight room. The door of the weight room broke off some time ago. And Cervantes said student restrooms badly need to be improved – including replacing toilets and stalls.


“There's lots to be done, and we have to prioritize,” Cervantes said. “He's a skilled and talented craftsman,” Cervanted said of Scrimshire, “but he's one man.”