Frisco ISD will benefit further from its status as a District of Innovation. The designation provides greater local control and autonomy by allowing school districts to become exempt from certain state laws.
The School Board approved four new exemptions Wednesday, in addition to three existing exemptions, to provide Frisco ISD with additional flexibility to better meet the needs of students.
The first amendment is related to hiring. Campus administrators have found that some applicants for teaching positions bring a wealth of applicable professional work experience and knowledge of the field, but lack the required state certification(s) to teach a specific subject.
Under the amendment, Frisco ISD will continue to seek certified educators for teaching positions and encourage uncertified teachers to become certified. However, when those efforts have been reasonably exhausted, particularly in hard-to-fill areas such as career and technical education (CTE) and world languages, FISD will have the ability to hire skilled individuals without teacher certification who may best address the needs of students. These individuals will have to be knowledgeable in the content area and meet qualification criteria such as relevant experience, formal training/education or professional industry certifications.
“We’ve had to bypass a number of great candidates in the past who had industry licenses and experience in the profession,” said Dianna Manuel, principal at the Frisco ISD Career and Technical Education Center. “Teachers who are certified but don’t have that background can’t speak from experience and that’s what CTE is all about. We want students to get that real-world insight and hands-on learning from teachers who have worked in the career fields they are teaching.”
The second amendment will increase the length of time that new-to-FISD teachers are employed under a probationary contract from one year to two years. Under the Texas Education Code, “teacher” is defined as a principal, supervisor, classroom teacher, school counselor or other full-time professional employee who is required to hold a certificate.
“This amendment will provide principals and other hiring managers with additional time to fully assess and support a teacher before making a decision about moving the employee from probationary status,” said Pam Linton, chief human resources officer.
The third amendment will allow FISD to award course credit or a final grade to students in designated programs even if they aren’t in attendance at least 90 percent of the days the class is offered. This exemption will not impact or alter existing compulsory attendance requirements, but it will provide some students with greater flexibility to complete coursework or make up assignments outside of the school building.
It will also allow the District to explore new ways to serve students. Frisco ISD has many students who are unable to attend class for a variety of valid reasons. Areas of opportunity include online learning and blended learning, which combines online learning with traditional face-to-face instruction.
“Learning isn’t the same thing as sitting in a seat, but that is the implication of the law,” said Tiffany Carey, coordinator of innovative learning. “We know that some students learn better through virtual, online or blended instruction, and there are numerous ways to show content mastery. This exemption gives students greater control of the time, pace and place of their learning.”
The last exemption would make out-of-school suspension a disciplinary option for all elementary school students. Currently, administrators are limited in their ability to implement consequences for students who engage in persistent misbehavior, including behavior that consistently disrupts classroom learning or is considered harmful to the student or others.
“Students in these situations don’t always understand the seriousness of their actions due to the limited ability of staff members to respond,” said Monica Jackson, managing director of elementary student services. “More flexibility will give campus administrators, and District support staff, greater ability to take appropriate action and send a message to students and parents through thoughtful consideration of the unique circumstances involved.”