Grievance filed against WFISD's District of Innovation plan

The Texas Classroom Teachers Association has filed a grievance against the Wichita Falls Independent School District's District of Innovation plan.

Dohn Larson, the Texas Classroom Teachers Association's Director of Legal Services, said he could not say how many teachers reached out to them, but he could confirm is was multiple educators.

Larson said the grievance was filed on January 31st, before the District Advisory Committee and the school board passed the plan.

He said the teacher's concerns are with the district's process of becoming a District of Innovation and some parts of the proposal itself.

Larson said the WFISD's District Advisory Committee does not comply with state law.

"All we are doing is asking the district to do it the right way," said Larson. "We do not believe that the two-thirds of the professional representatives on that committee were actually elected by classroom teachers."

He said another concern is the District of Innovation Committee's proposal to waive state teacher certification guidelines.

The WFISD wants to use this exemption to hire career and technology teachers and foreign language educators.

Larson said there are a couple of problems with this proposal.

"They [WFISD] don't have to exempt themselves from the duty of hiring certified teachers in order to hire CTE teachers," said Larson. "They already have a right to do that."

He said state law gives all districts the ability to hire industry professionals, like electricians and welders, who can teach career-tech classes with a district teaching permit.

"And can be hired by the district based on their skills, on their history and on their licensure or certification," said Larson

The district also wants to use this exemption to hire foreign language teachers, but Larson said the district can already do this too.

He adds a lot of districts use H-1B visas to fill these positions.

"So there are ways for the district to hire teachers in foreign language positions without exempting the district from the duty to hire certified teachers altogether," said Larson.

He said some teachers are worried this waiver will give the district the right to reassign them outside of their field certification. Like moving a science teacher to the math department.

"That's not stated in this plan, but that's part of the concern," said Larson.

Another issue, the proposed exemption from the state law that requires the district to have a Campus Behavior Coordinator at every school.

WFISD's plan says this will help make discipline a collaborative effort.

However, Larson said some TCTA teachers fear this will take away the help they get with student discipline.

He adds without it, "then they take out the obligations under the law that the Campus Discipline Coordinator will do these things, and that's really important," said Larson.

Larson said it is not uncommon for teachers to file grievances, and while he has been in contact with WFISD's attorney, he could not discuss the details.

A Texas Education Agency representative said grievances are handled on the local level and are decided by the school district.

However, they add some grievances can be appealed to the TEA Commissioner.

Larson said the teachers in the Texas Classroom Teachers Association will be the ones who decide to do this or not.

District officials said they cannot discuss the grievance at this time since they are working through it, but they did say they have not sent the District of Innovation plan to the Texas Education Agency to be verified just yet.

The district is however in the process of getting the paperwork together to take that final step.

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