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Two More Districts Approved to Innovate

Students in several Mississippi school districts will have opportunities to take more college and career readiness courses after the state Board of Education approved their innovation plans.

Students in several Mississippi school districts will have opportunities to take more college and career readiness courses after the state Board of Education approved their innovation plans. Photo by Imani Khayyam.

— The Mississippi State Board of Education approved plans for two new school districts to become "Districts of Innovation" on Feb. 16.

Grenada School District plans to implement the "Walls to Windows Innovation Plan" to expand its pre-K program, establish college and career readiness partnerships with Holmes Community College, and expand learning areas in some sciences.

The Baldwyn and Booneville school districts will collaborate to start the "Building Bridges" program to expand career and technical courses for students in both districts as well as allow students the opportunities to take Advanced Placement courses.

Districts of innovation came from a 2015 law that allows school districts to submit plans and ask the Mississippi Board of Education to waive certain regulations in order to implement the plans. As of now, there are five districts of innovation with varying accountability rankings: Corinth (A), Gulfport (B), Vicksburg-Warren (D), Grenada (C) and Baldwyn-Booneville (B, A).

School districts can ask the state board to waive regulations that limit the use of capital outlay funds for operation costs, allow exemption in the hiring process, develop alternate salary schedules, create flexible school years and calendars, and promote educational ventures between districts, a memo from the Mississippi Department of Education shows.

"The collaboration with Baldwyn School District ensures that students from both districts will be prepared for tomorrow's opportunities," said Dr. Todd English, superintendent of the Booneville School District, in a press release. "The collaboration leverages each district's strength, respectively, with the student being the primary beneficiary of the collaboration."

Districts of innovation do not get additional funding from the state—just freedom from certain regulations that enable them to complete their five-year proposals to innovate submitted to the state board of education. The Legislature has continued to eye de-regulation for school districts in the state this legislative session. The House of Representatives passed House Bill 1224 this year, which would exempt "A" and "B" school districts from certain regulations and reporting requirements to MDE. The bill would also allow school districts to offer teacher incentives, similar to a program used in the state's failing districts to attract teachers. The Senate will have to pass the legislation out of its education committee in the coming weeks for it to stay alive.

Email state reporter Arielle Dreher at arielle@jacksonfreepress.com and follow her on Twitter at @arielle_amara.

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