District of Innovation

About 400 school districts and counting have adopted District of Innovation plans, including Ector County ISD.

Dallas, Highland Park, and Ector County schools recently became the latest districts to opt for the “District of Innovation” status. Districts across Texas are grabbing hold of a 2015 law that allows them wider flexibility and control of everything from the start and end dates for the school year, class size, and length of a school day,  to who they can hire to teach.

Highland Park ISD’s board of trustees voted a District of Innovation plan in March. Ector County ISD passed its plan in April.

The District of Innovation concept was provided for in 2015 when the state legislature passed House Bill 1842, which allows districts some flexibility in seeking exemptions to state education code on various facets of curriculum, governance, accountability, and finance.

To begin the journey, a board adopts a resolution to examine the issue, then holds public hearings and appoints a committee to develop the district’s plan.

Proponents point to the local control, and to the opportunity for the same flexibility charter schools have. Opponents frequently say there is the potential for a slippery slope scenario that would lead to hiring unqualified teachers.

There is also a fair amount of fret about what teacher contracts would look like on a District of Innovation landscape, but so far districts that have passed plans have insisted teacher contracts would not be affected. (more…)

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Photo: Cindy Homsher

As much as I love to talk about Dallas public schools and what I’ve learned through talking with administrators, teachers, parents, students and school board members, nothing can replace the insight from a been-there-done-that family entrenched in the district. So I’ve come up with 10 questions (the same 10 I ask every DISD parent when I want to talk about their school or schools), and each month we’ll highlight a family who answered. Our inaugural edition will begin with the Homsher family, who live in Preston Royal. Mom Cindy Homsher and her kids – Natalie, Matthew, Nicholas and Catherine – answered our questions.

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Photo courtesy of Travis Swan via a Creative Commons license

Photo courtesy of Travis Swan via a Creative Commons license

Gather up your new and gently used coats and blankets for adults and kids because it’s time for the annual coat and blanket drive by Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage’s Dallas/Park Cities office.

Collected items will go to the Dallas ISD Coat Closet and the Oak Lawn Community Outreach Center Clothes Closet for families in need and for the homeless.

The drive runs from Monday, Dec. 8 to Saturday, Dec. 13. Drop-off times are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. Home pick-up is also available by calling 214-521-0044.

New and gently used coats for adults and children as well as blankets will be accepted at the Coldwell Banker Dallas/Park Cities office located at 7001 Preston Road, Suite 125, located at the corner of Preston and Hyer Street.

“Each year, thousands of adults and children go without proper coats to keep them warm, and our employees and sales associates vowed this year that they wanted to make a difference,” said Keith Head, managing broker of the Dallas/Park Cities office. “So if you have a coat that no longer fits or that your family doesn’t use anymore, or if you have spare blankets that you can donate, it’s an easy way to help someone in need this holiday season.”

The need for coats and blankets is very real for many North Texas families this year. In Dallas County alone, 18.8 percent of people were living below the federal poverty level, according to Healthy North Texas, and the largest percentage of those were children. For a family of four, that means an annual income of $23,850.

Additionally, Texas is one of five states that accounts for more than half of the homeless population in the United States, with almost 30,000 homeless counted in 2013, according to the Texas Homeless Network. For these people, your donation of a warm coat or blanket can make a lifesaving difference.

 

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This weekend, the Mister, Tiny and I will be heading to the DISD Magnet Fair I mentioned last week, to get a bit of the lay of the land. Next week also means dropping by the Dealey open house as well – so keep your eyes peeled for what I’ve gleaned from those two treks next week.

This week I am working on defining some of the things we see talked about – but if you’re new to Texas, public schools or Dallas ISD, you might not know exactly what they are. It’ll be an ongoing feature that I hope will eventually be spurred by reader questions – so if there is something you’ve been wondering about but haven’t wanted to call yourself, email me – I’ll find out!

In the meantime, here are some stories and blog posts that I found interesting about Dallas public schools:

 

Photo: Bethany Erickson

Photo: Bethany Erickson

If you are considering a magnet program or are just interested in your neighborhood Dallas public school, these are some dates you need to mark on your calendars.

To get the lay of the land, Dallas ISD will be hosting a Magnet Fair Saturday, Dec. 6, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Ellis Davis Field House, 9191 South Polk, Dallas. If you wish to fill out the application for a magnet school or montessori, paper forms will be available on Dec. 8,  or you can begin filling out the online application on January 12, 2015.

To tour a specific school, check here for its open house date. More information, including projected open slots at each school and application requirements can be found at the DISD magnet page.

To find your Dallas public school and its feeder pattern, visit the parent and student section of the DISD webpage. Once you find your school’s homepage, look for its calendar for dates like kindergarten roundup and other open houses. You can also always email the principal and ask for a meeting and tour! I also recommend looking up the school’s PTA webpage, and getting in touch with those folks.

 

Photo: Bethany Erickson

Photo: Bethany Erickson

When my husband bought the home we live in now – a 1950s bungalow in Midway Hollow – he was a bachelor. He told me several times during our courtship that he bought the house thinking that he would sell it when he got married, because three bedrooms and ONE bathroom is kind of cozy.

Well, I like cozy. When we married, we decided that staying put made sense, but if we ever had kids, we would give the situation another gander.

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Lakewood Elementary is a sought-after attendance area within Dallas ISD.

Lakewood Elementary is a sought-after attendance area within Dallas ISD.

A recent column by Heather Wilhelm highlights a huge issue in America: In order to get into a good public school, you often have to spend more on a home. Heck, brokerages have developed search tools to help you focus on the school attendance areas you want, weeding out perfectly good homes that have imperfect schools.

Wilhelm, a political columnist in Austin, dissects the intersection between public education and real estate in her recent Dallas Morning News Op-Ed, “Public Schools — The Craziest Government Program of Them All.” For the most prescient example, look at HPISD and the Lakewood Elementary attendance area.

Read on for more.

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DISD Admin Building 3700 Ross Ave

Both Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said that education is one of the major issues facing North Texas. But other than outright dissolution or breaking up the urban districts, advocates and officials are scrambling for ways to fix underperforming schools and disaffected communities.

The idea that has gained the most traction is home rule. It’s a complicated process that involves a commission appointed by school board officials that will then develop a charter, which will then go to a citywide ballot for a vote. In the end, the district will be reshaped in a way that will change how the school district is managed.

It’s been hailed as a way to cut through the bureaucracy that has kept Dallas schools from succeeding. If the district reorganizes and becomes more successful, more middle-class people will come back to the city, and so will employers.

At least that’s what Rawlings hopes.

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