Garland ISD will officially become a District of Innovation following a Board of Trustees vote April 11. At their work session, Trustees received GISD’s proposed District of Innovation plan, which provides increased local control for school year start dates, the length of school days, teacher certification, the teacher appraisal system and campus behavior coordinator provisions.
“This is the result of many hours of work by the District Educational Improvement Council, and we want to thank them,” said Director of Research, Assessment and Accountability Kim Caddell. “The purpose of the District of Innovation plan is not to get rid of our accountability. The intent truly is to have more flexibility over how we meet the goals that are outlined in the Texas Education Code, as well as the goals of our local school board.”
GISD’s plan allows the district to start the school year earlier than the state-mandated fourth Monday in August, which better balances semester lengths. It also provides the ability to lengthen or shorten school days as necessary for professional development, collaboration opportunities for educators and structured breaks throughout the year for students. With the new Gilbreath-Reed Career and Technical Center, as well as a focus on innovative course selections, local decisions about teacher certification allow the district to hire community college instructors, university professors, industry experts with a minimum three years of experience or internal applicants seeking assignments outside of their traditional certification area. GISD’s plan also includes a change to the current teacher appraisal system, which improves equity and team building. Finally, an exemption from the campus behavior coordinator requirements provides the opportunity for more campus administrators to support students.
“All decision-making related to the implementation of these innovations will again come back to the school board for consideration and approval,” commented Caddell.
An earlier school start date would not take effect until 2018-19 because the 2017-18 calendar has already been approved.
A proposal for the Ready 1:1 middle school rollout was also presented to Trustees. Last September, GISD issued personal iPads to more than 17,000 high school students. This fall, a cart-based pilot will be conducted, giving select middle school classrooms a set for all students to have access during instruction. The district will evaluate feedback from both initiatives next spring to determine the best plan for a districtwide middle school rollout.
In an update on the new Gilbreath-Reed Career and Technical Center, Principal Erika Crump shared that construction is nearly 75-percent complete. A projected schedule also showed morning classes beginning at 7:15 a.m. and afternoon classes ending at 2:45 p.m. Students who start their day at the Center would return to home campuses for classes that begin at 10:45 a.m. Students who start their day at home campuses would travel to the Center for classes that begin at 11:45 a.m. A student interest survey revealed the top two anticipated courses as certified nursing assisting and culinary arts.
The board voted to extend Interim Superintendent Deborah Cron’s contract. She will continue to serve through this fall as the district conducts its superintendent search.
Trustees also recognized fourteen agriculture and horticulture students with Evidence of Excellence awards. Among many participants in the 73rd-annual Livestock and Plant Show and Sale, they won Grand Champion, Floral Competition Winner and Horticulture MVP titles. This yearly event features Garland, Naaman Forest, Rowlett, Sachse and South Garland high schools with impressive cattle, swine, shrubs, flowers and more that students raise from fledglings to full-grown.
The Garland Area Alliance for Black School Educators (GAABSE) also received Evidence of Excellence recognition for being named Affiliate of the Year by the Texas Alliance for Black School Educators. Committed to quality education for all students, GAABSE focuses on closing achievements gaps.
GISD launched a new staff recognition program during the work session as well. Visual Arts Coordinator David Sanders and Pathfinder Achievement Center paraprofessional Crystal Okoche earned the district’s first Going the Extra Mile (GEM) awards. Sanders helped create a new auxiliary position on cheerleading squads for special education students, while Okoche goes above and beyond to plan fall and spring celebrations for students living in non-traditional homes.