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“District of Innovation” Plan Approved at Dell City ISD

The Dell City ISD school board voted at its March 28 meeting to approve a new “District of Innovation” plan. The plan gives Dell City ISD increased flexibility in a range of areas – including an exemption from certain teacher certification requirements, and in school schedule. School leaders believe the plan will help address the unique challenges faced by this remote, rural district, where educators are often called upon to teach across multiple areas and grade levels.


Special-education and bilingual teachers will still be required to have state certification, and school administrators say they will continue to seek certified educators for core academic areas. But the plan allows for hiring local residents who have areas of special expertise and experience to teach in areas such as careers and technology, and other electives. The district can also hire teachers who are certified in other states.


High teacher turnover has been a major challenge at Dell City ISD during the last five years, and Supt. Ruben Cervantes and Principal Carlos A. Contreras believe that recruiting area residents, people already rooted here and invested in the community, is key to the long-term success of the school. The new plan can help facilitate such recruiting.


The district will identify minimum requirements for instructors who are not certified, as well as areas of professional development – such as student management and instructional strategies – that those instructors would be required to receive. Administrators will inform the school board any time an uncertified teacher is hired, and detail that person's qualifications.


Another area of new flexibility is in the school schedule. The district was previously required to begin classes on the fourth Monday of August. The district can now have an earlier start date. That flexibility will allow for more instructional days before mandatory state testing, and will allow the district to balance the number of school days in the fall and spring semesters.


The plan also allows for extending the length of “probationary contracts” for new hires with experience in teaching – from one to two years. The longer probationary periods will allow for a more comprehensive evaluation of new employees – and for using end-of-year student data, and test scores, in that evaluation.


The plan also changes the policy for “transfer students” – students from outside the district. At present, transfer students are accepted for an entire school year. Now, school administrators can revoke a transfer agreement at any time, if a student exhibits conduct that disrupts the educational environment or warrants disciplinary action.


Cervantes, who took the leadership role at DCISD in May 2018, identified making DCISD a district of innovation as a priority last summer. The plan takes effect this May, and remains in effect through May 2024. The Texas Education Agency could act to revoke the plan if the district were to fail to meet state accountability standards for two consecutive years.