WICHITA FALLS, TX (KAUZ) - The Wichita Falls Independent School District is moving forward with the idea of becoming a District of Innovation, and some teachers are concerned they may lose several state laws that protect their rights.
At Tuesday night's board meeting, trustees appointed a District of Innovation Committee made up of teachers, administrators and community members to get the ball rolling.
"Our goal is to improve our education opportunities for our students, and if there are things out there that are holding us back, then we want to make sure that we take advantage of this opportunity the legislature gave us," said Michael Kuhrt, WFISD Superintendent.
That opportunity is to become a District of Innovation. The concept gives school districts some flexibility.
According to the Texas Association of School Boards, that means changes to school start dates, attendance rules, class size ratio, use of planning and preparation periods and much more.
WFISD superintendent Michael Kuhrt said the District of Innovation Committee will look at state requirements to see what is holding the district back, and if going in this new direction would be a benefit or not.
"If there are things we can do as a district that says local control, that says we know what's best for us and not Austin, then I think we should consider," said Kuhrt.
However, many WFISD teachers said they are worried some of their state rights could be taken away, and one of their biggest concerns is teacher-to-class-size ratio.
"Right now, the state law is 1 to 22, and one of the options you have with District of Innovation is to do away with class size limits," said Lisa Martischnig, a teacher at Jefferson Elementary. "That is non-negotiable with teachers. It is in place for a reason, and it needs to remain there," she said.
Another regulation they feel needs to stay in place is teacher planning time.
"The districts are required to provide teachers with 450 minutes every two weeks, with a minimum of 45 minutes planning, and this is absolutely critical," said Shelby Patrick, a retired WFISD teacher.
Patrick said educators use this time for things like preparing lesson plans and doing paper work.
"We would hate to see that be modified or eliminated, and we think that would be very detrimental to teachers, which would make it very detrimental for the classroom," said Patrick.
The option of hiring non-certified teachers and eliminating duty free lunches are other worries that have some faculty members speaking out.
"In all, it's the success of the students, and we realize that the teachers have to be well provided for in order for the students to be educated in a proper manner," said Martischnig.
While the WFISD is considering the change, other North Texas school districts ---including Mansfield, Bryson and Childress ISD have already embraced the option.
"I don't see why the rush to jump on this bandwagon. I would prefer that our district stay back and watch, see how successful it is with other districts that have tried it," said Martischnig.
Superintendent Kuhrt stressed nothing has been decided just yet except for the District of Innovation Committee.
That committee will present its plan to the District Advisory Committee for approval, and then it must be decided on by the board. To be approved, it must get two-thirds of the votes by board members. That plan will then be in place for 5 years.
The committee's plans will be posted on the district's website for 30 days, and during that time anyone can make comments, and the plan can always be altered.
There is, however, no set date on when the first plan will be available to view.
WFISD District of Innovation Committee:
Jennifer Faulkenbery- Teacher Kirby
Letitia Pert- Community Member
Angelica Perkins- Teacher Kirby
Jim Price- Community Member
Lisa Martischnig- Teacher Jefferson
Alan Rainey- Community Member
Roberto Rodriguez- Community Member
Amy Simmons- Teacher Jefferson
Matthew Capps- MSU
Tracey Goodman- Teacher Milam
Diann Taylor- Retired WFISD
Carol Sales- The Kemp Arts Council
Jared Jacobs- Teacher Crockett
Denise Williams- Retired WFISD
Krista Kaspar- Teacher Crockett
Sarah Chisum- Teacher Crockett
Bethlyn Eby- Teacher Barwise
Ferran Kaspar- Teacher Barwise
Michael Tayntor- Teacher McNiel
Larry Fox- Teacher Kirby
Stephanie Robles- Asst. Principal Barwise
Shannon Cunningham- Asst. Principal Barwise
Angela Vaughn- Counselor Kirby
Debby Patterson- Dir. of School Admin. WFISD
Lisa Kowalick- Teacher Crockett