“We are Prosper, we are one!”

That statement defines our school district. In Prosper, we are one. However, the Texas Education Code often limits school districts like ours from doing what is best for their individual district.

To provide traditional public school districts greater flexibility, the 84th Texas Legislature passed House Bill 1842, called District of Innovation, allowing schools to exempt themselves from certain education laws. Prosper Independent School District is seeking a designation as a District of Innovation from the Texas Education Agency. After review of this plan, TEA may provide Prosper ISD with a designation that provides exemptions from certain laws and regulations. The District of Innovation designation is about local control and gives school districts the flexibility to make decisions on what is best for students.

Earlier this fall, the Prosper ISD Board of Trustees appointed a committee with representatives to discuss pursuing a District of Innovation plan. The committee consists of local parent and community representatives, teachers from every school, administrators, and employees of Prosper ISD.

The committee has met three times and drafted a District of Innovation plan. In January, the District Advisory Committee will conduct a public hearing about the plan. Afterwards, the Trustees will vote to adopt the plan.

We both serve on the District of Innovation Committee as a teacher and parent representatives. Before we agreed to serve on the committee, we researched the topic in great detail and studied the pros and cons of District of Innovations. As parents of children in Prosper schools, we could not serve on a committee and agree to a District of Innovation plan if we had concerns or belief it would hurt PISD.

After our extensive research and work on the Prosper ISD committee, we recommend that Prosper ISD pursue a District of Innovation. The District of Innovation plan includes the following exemptions for local control: The first innovation relates to the first day of instruction. Having the ability to choose the first day of school versus what is required in the Texas Education Code will give Prosper ISD flexibility and the option to begin instruction earlier in the calendar year. It will balance the amount of instructional time in semesters, give teachers a better pace to deliver instruction, and students more opportunity for retest dates. It also assists with summer school and graduation dates. Items like a graduation date can be extremely difficult to plan due to limited calendar date options. Imagine actually getting out of school in the month of May! It could happen with this plan.

Secondly, District of Innovation will help Prosper ISD access educators with multiple certifications. It can be difficult to find educators to teach classes in areas such as science, engineering and math in the upper grades. Currently, laws limit the district’s ability to hire educators to teach hard to fill positions. Flexibility in this area will assist in finding quality candidates to teach certain courses rather than cancelling classes. We are only considering certification for the career and technical course areas because there are fewer instructors in the specialized fields like medical and auto tech, for example. Our goal is to always select a qualified, certified teacher who has experience in these areas.

Next, the district is seeking exemption from the Student Growth Measure of the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System. We believe that through the professional learning community process our teachers are allowed to grow and develop. We can confirm that this exemption will allow teachers to actually do their job instead of spending instructional time on administrative paperwork.

Finally, the district is seeking flexibility to increase the parental involvement at the district site based decision-making process. Simply put, it will give us more parent representatives. As our district grows, so should our parental involvement.

Rest assured that this plan does NOT include, nor will it seek to include, exemptions to curriculum or instruction. Prosper ISD is proud of our Curriculum Department and has no desire to change it.

It is our hope you will support the Prosper District of Innovation designation. Frankly, it is the wave of the future in Texas education. The District of Innovation allows us to be the district we want to be, to provide our students and teachers with opportunities that makes us Prosper, makes us one. Detailed information about the District of Innovation plan may be found on Prosper ISD’s website, www.prosper-isd.net.

Mandy Goddard is married to Curt Goddard and is a mother of two children in Prosper Schools. She has lived in Prosper since 2009 and volunteers regularly in the community. Mandy also is a former full-time educator and maintains her PK-12 Principal and 6-12 Mathematics certifications.

Sharla Davenport is married to Raymond “Tripp” Davenport and is a mother of three children in Prosper schools. She has lived in Prosper since 2013 and teaches Fourth Grade at Rucker Elementary. Both authors serve on the District of Innovation Committee for Prosper ISD.