HISD Superintendent Mike Miles speaks to a room full of parents and educators at Pugh Elementary School, discussing NES plan. (Credit: Jimmie Aggison)

HISD is on the brink of achieving “District of Innovation” (DOI) status as the District Advisory Committee approved the final draft of the DOI plan on Nov 14.

The district is edging closer to joining the ranks of more than 960 school districts in Texas with this designation.

Superintendent Mike Miles highlighted its significance, emphasizing that HISD, the largest district in Texas, stands out as one of the few without DOI status. He believed this move signifies Houston’s commitment to prioritizing students’ best interests, reflecting a cultural shift in the community and transformative work within HISD.

The crucial vote is scheduled during the board meeting on Dec. 14. If approved, HISD would gain various flexibilities, including starting the school year as early as the first Monday in August. The proposed changes also include an expansion of the school year’s duration and the option to hire uncertified teachers without annual waivers from the Texas Education Agency. Additionally, the plan seeks flexibility in determining the minimum attendance requirement for class credit for eligible high school students.

The 60-member District Advisory Committee, consisting of educators, community members, and public education advocates, was pivotal in advancing the DOI plan. Comprising one-third of appointments from the superintendent, one-third from the school board, and one-third of elected members, the committee reflected a diverse representation.

The DOI status, established by the Texas Legislature in 2015, offers traditional public school districts the flexibility akin to open-enrollment Texas charter schools. This local control empowers districts to tailor their operations to the specific needs of students and staff. HISD, currently without this designation, would join the majority of Texas school districts in embracing the DOI framework, leaving only HISD and Cypress-Fairbanks as the two Houston-area districts without it.

Superintendent Mike Miles announced additional community engagement with the initiation of monthly briefings called “Straight to the Source,” starting on Nov. 15. These briefings aim to enhance communication and transparency within the HISD community about the District’s progress toward his Destination 2035 goals.