Trustees of Liberty-Eylau Independent School District took final action to become a District of Innovation during their regular meeting Thursday. The board adopted the District of Innovation plan, in which the district requests several exemptions to the Texas Education Code, including flexibility on the school start date, not having to file a waiver with the Texas Education Association when classes contain more than 22 students in grades K-4, allowing non-certified employees to teach subjects in which they are highly skilled, and to give the district the option to require two-year contracts for newly hired teachers, counselors or nurses.
Districts of Innovation are allowed through Texas House Bill 1842, passed during the 2015 legislative session, and gives certain public schools many of the flexibilities of the state's open-enrollment charter schools. The plan, which will now be sent to the commissioner of education, will be in place for five years. Pleasant Grove ISD and Texarkana ISD have both completed the District of Innovation process.
In other business. Superintendent Ronnie Thompson gave a presentation on the Samsara bus-tracking system the district is testing on two buses. It works in coordination with Safe Stop, and allows administrators to track the buses in real-time with either a graphic or satellite view. It also gives analytics on the bus, including if it speeds, needs gas or other repairs and determines the efficiency of the routes taken. The program works with an app parents can load on their smart phone to also track the bus in real time.
"We're really excited to be testing this out," Thompson said. "We like what we see so far."
Cost is for the system is estimated to be between $6,000 and $8,000 per year.
In other business, the board voted to partner with a food service company to provide meals for the district in the upcoming year. Thompson said he had visited the cafeteria at Arkansas High School, which is contracted with Chartwells for food service.
"I've been very impressed with the quality of the food service these companies have developed for the different cafeterias in the schools to make those products better for the kids," he said.
The district will begin accepting bids and send a request to the Texas Department of Agriculture.
Board member James Keeton asked what would become of the district's current food service employees.
"Under our deal, we're going to keep our employees," Thompson said. "We may give them an option (to be employed with the food service company). The only reason we'd give them in an option is some of the companies are vested in other areas and in other industries beside the school, so if the employee moves off, sometimes that's better for them. If they relocate, they'd have a job, so to speak." Employment through the food service company could also allow food service workers to advance to higher positions within the company that might not otherwise be available through the district, Thompson added.
Trustees also voted to revise the 2016-17 school calendar to move the May 25 and 26 bad weather days to May 29, which is Memorial Day and June 3, a Saturday, to allow for a three-day holiday weekend. It will also allow teachers to finish their contracted days on Friday, June 2.