District of Innovation allows school an earlier start, flexibility with hiring

by Maddy Lingk | staff writer

NEISD has the ability to start school earlier and hire teachers without a teaching certificate as a District of Innovation. 

NEISD has been designated a District of Innovation since 2020. 

“So you don’t automatically get to be a District of Innovation, you have to apply to the state of Texas, and it lasts for two years,” Principal Gary Comalander said. “And in fact, we’re finishing our two years right now and applying for next year, which we feel like it’s going to go through.”

The superintendent and the school board fill out forms and apply through the Texas Education Agency.

“If you just reapply and as long as things have worked the last two years, typically you’re going to be accepted again,” Comalander said.

NEISD uses this to start school a week to a week and a half earlier than other districts. According to Comalander, this prevents the school year from going into June.

“Summer stuff is already starting at the beginning of June,” Comalander said. “So we had lots of seniors either missing out on the opportunity to take college courses in the summer [or] going to different events, like enrolling, and those types of things.”

Additionally, parents were able to have input on the calendar for the next school year; this way everyone has a chance to voice their concerns. 

“And so they were having meetings, it was last night and tonight that parents could join virtually and be a part of the vote, listen, or put in questions about it,” Comalander said.

As previously mentioned, there is another advantage to being a District of Innovation. 

“The second thing that District of Innovation allows you to do is hire a teacher that is not fully certified in a hard to find position,” Comalander said. 

He used classes like American Sign Language, Latin, and career tech courses as examples of where it would be hard to find a certified teacher.

“So if you can find somebody that has a degree, has experience in that area, they have to work on that certification, but they can be hired for one year,” Comalander said.

By this, Comalander means that teachers must have their certification by the end of their first year. In accordance with him, the only downside of being District of Innovation is starting early as a consequence for ending in May.

“It’s been very beneficial. A little bit for Johnson, but for the district because we have seven high schools. There are subjects at all of our schools that can be hard to fill,” Comalander said.

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