Waco ISD's Quality District Advisory Council (QDAC) gave its stamp of approval to nine proposed exemptions as part of the District's move to become a "District of Innovation".
That committee of educators, parents and members of the community voted 18-2 to send the waivers on to the Board of Trustees, which will hold a public hearing in March and then decide whether to implement the changes.
QDAC met with District administrators multiple times to craft the wording on the exemptions to come up with guidelines that were acceptable to both groups, with the ultimate goal being what was best for students.
Cesar Chavez Middle School teacher Kelli Barron was excited that her peers and principals were involved in the process that provides more campus control in the learning environment. "It says we care about those students being successful and meeting their needs," she said.
One of the exemptions involves truancy, allowing campuses to decide when to take attendance rather than relying on a fixed state guideline. As an example, Barron mentioned a student who sometimes walks 4 miles to school because of car trouble. If he arrives at 9:45 a.m. and stays the entire day in class, currently attendance is logged at 9:30 a.m. and he would be considered absent. Under the new exemption, he would get credit for attending class.
"The District of Innovation exemptions give us more flexibility at the local level to meet the needs of students," said Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education Yolanda Williams.
The Board of Trustees can approve the exemptions by a two-thirds majority, turn down the proposed waivers, or send them back to QDAC for revisions. If they are approved, the State Commissioner of Education would be notified by letter of the District's decision, but by law he does not have the right to approve or deny the District of Innovation status. The exemptions would then go into effect for the 2017-18 school year.
A growing number of school districts across the state are going through the same process seeking that designation to have more local control over the educational process.
Click here to see the list of nine exemptions...