At this point we don’t need to impress upon you the meaningful impacts that a well-written District of Innovation (“DOI”) Plan can have on school operations. After nearly ten years of the DOI experiment, it’s no secret that these plans are powerful tools—especially if properly drafted. Whether your District is seeking to adopt a plan for the first time, to renew an expiring plan, or to amend an existing plan, you must ensure that you carefully consider including the latest and greatest exemptions. This quick article will address some of the most popular and emerging innovations worth considering.

An Orange man has pleaded guilty to stealing money from the Trinidad Independent School District. On Wednesday, Brandon Delane Looney, 38, pleaded guilty to theft from a program receiving federal funds while serving as business manager for Trinidad ISD. Federal law makes it a crime for someone to steal from an organization receiving more than $10,000 in federal funds annually. According to court documents, Looney embezzled more than $300,000 between 2017 and 2023 while working for Trinidad ISD in Henderson County. Looney used the funds for trips to Walt Disney World and spending sprees at The Disney Store. view article arw

After severe storms left widespread damage in the City of Houston Thursday, Houston ISD has announced they are closing all campuses and canceling classes on Friday. Soon after, other districts followed. “HISD has coordinated with the City of Houston and is closing all campuses Friday, May 17,” an email from the district read. view article arw

A former East Texas school business manager pleaded guilty to stealing over $300,000 and using the money to fund trips to Walt Disney World. Brandon Delane Looney, 38, of Orange, entered a guilty plea on Wednesday to theft from a program receiving federal funds while he was working at the school, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. view article arw

A student in the Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City Independent School District was arrested for taking a gun to a school campus. According to a news release, the Schertz Police Department was informed by school officials that a student had brought a gun Monday to Allison Steele Enhanced Learning Center. view article arw

Controversy over Fort Bend ISD ranking policy leads to valedictorian switch-up  The graduation shakeup is the latest controversy surrounding the 2019 policy that sprang from what was seen as unfair advantages to some students who enrolled in schools they were not zoned to. This was usually done to meet academic needs or wishes, like technical courses or early college programs. But district leaders started to notice that some high school seniors from schools with very competitive rankings would transfer to another school where they could be ranked higher — even in the top 10, said community advocate and Marshall PTO president Stephanie Brown. In Texas, students graduating in the top 10% of their high school class are guaranteed admission to any public university in the state. Under a new policy that began when the class of 2024 were freshmen, gaming the system in such a way was not possible. All high school students must be ranked at the high school where they are geographically zoned, even if they attend another school. The Fort Bend ISD board of trustees has already done away with the policy, starting with the class of 2028. However, students will continue to be ranked at their zoned campuses for the next three years, outgoing board President Judy Dae said last week. view article arw

Child Protective Services is leading an investigation into allegations made against multiple elementary school teachers in Tomball ISD’s structured learning lab, a program designed for students with autism spectrum disorders, officials said. In a letter to families on Tuesday, the school district said it launched its own investigation into the undetailed allegations made against the teachers. Those staff members are no longer employed by the school district. view article arw

Authorities arrested two Sulphur Springs ISD teachers Friday after an alleged incident with a student. Marcie Nordin Stewart, 55, and Kristy Denee Williams, 47, both of Sulphur Springs, were booked into the Hopkins County Jail Friday on charges of unlawful restraint. According to a release from the Hopkins County Sheriff’s Office, the two are accused of unlawfully restraining a student on campus. view article arw

A Denton ISD student and her mother spoke out during Tuesday night’s school board meeting after a bus attack. Kai Williams, a 13-year-old middle school student at Bettye Myers Middle School, said she was attacked by an adult on a school bus. According to Denton police, at abut 4:14 p.m. on April 23, officers were called to the 3500 block of East McKinney Street. view article arw

The Tom Green County Sheriff’s Office has released an official statement regarding its arrest of a Wall Independent School District faculty member following an investigation into the electronic sexual solicitation of minors. view article arw

Teachers at a Tomball elementary school are out of a job and under investigation after being accused of unprofessional behavior towards students. The district let parents know by email Tuesday that teachers in Structured Learning Lab classrooms at Creekview Elementary are under investigation by Harris County Pct 4 Constable’s Office and Texas Child Protective Services. The SLL classrooms serve students from PreK up to 6th grade who have Autism Spectrum Disorder or similar behaviors, according to a school document. view article arw

There are new calls for change in Carroll Independent School District after a federal report found civil rights violations against students following claims of racism and bullying. Now, both the government and families are calling on the district to work towards a solution. “Carroll ISD, Carroll school board specifically, you’re now on the clock,” said Russell Maryland at a press conference Tuesday. view article arw

Some staff members at Creekview Elementary School are no longer employed after an investigation into reports of "unprofessional behavior toward students by teachers in Structured Learning Lab classrooms," according to Tomball ISD. On Tuesday, the district released a statement citing that an investigation into the allegations was launched on May 6. view article arw

Parents and teachers at several Houston ISD schools gathered Monday morning in support of their schools and their principals. They say the district gave those principals an ultimatum to resign or meet with the board of managers - and possibly face termination. view article arw

Two Denton Independent School District administrators facing criminal electioneering charges delayed court appearances set for Monday. Jesus and Lindsay Lujan, a husband and wife who are both Denton ISD employees, were scheduled to be arraigned Monday morning in Denton County criminal courts. Their hearings were rescheduled to June 18, according to a court officer. The Lujans are each charged with unlawful use of an internal mail system for political advertising, a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine. The charges mark the first time Texas school officials have been criminally prosecuted for using public resources to electioneer. Both were indicted on April 2, after local voters submitted affidavits to Denton County District Attorney Paul Johnson that alleged the Lujans engaged in criminal election interference. view article arw

Two Denton Independent School District administrators facing criminal electioneering charges delayed court appearances set for Monday. Jesus and Lindsay Lujan, a husband and wife who are both Denton ISD employees, were scheduled to be arraigned Monday morning in Denton County criminal courts. Their hearings were rescheduled to June 18, according to a court officer. The Lujans are each charged with unlawful use of an internal mail system for political advertising, a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine. The charges mark the first time Texas school officials have been criminally prosecuted for using public resources to electioneer. Both were indicted on April 2, after local voters submitted affidavits to Denton County District Attorney Paul Johnson that alleged the Lujans engaged in criminal election interference. view article arw

This is the latest development in the attorney general’s legal battle with a Catholic nonprofit accused of human smuggling.  Attorney General Ken Paxton has filed for a temporary injunction to halt a non-governmental organization’s alleged criminal activity.  Annunciation House, a Catholic non-profit organization, has been accused of harboring illegal aliens and facilitating their evasion from law enforcement officers. According to a Wednesday press release, the attorney general’s office has obtained and reviewed sworn testimony that indicates the accusations are true.  “Any NGO facilitating the unlawful entry of illegal aliens into Texas is undermining the rule of law and potentially jeopardizing the safety and wellbeing of our citizens,” Paxton said. “All NGOs who are complicit in Joe Biden’s illegal immigration catastrophe and think they are above the law should consider themselves on notice.”  This is the latest development in a legal feud between the NGO and Paxton that has stretched back to the beginning of this year. view article arw

Tompkins High School teacher James Stone was arrested Monday morning for allegedly possessing and producing thousands of child porn images, according to authorities. Investigators believe he even took some of those photos at Tompkins, where he taught government and history. view article arw

Thousands of images of child pornography were found Monday morning at the home of a Tompkins High School teacher in Katy, according to investigators. James Paul Stone admitted taking some of the pictures on school grounds, at beaches and local swimming pools around the Katy area, investigators said. view article arw

A teacher for a Kaufman County school district was arrested for allegedly abusing a student. Melissa McDaniels is charged with injury to a child. The child's parents tell FOX 4 that McDaniels used force against their son during an attempt to discipline him in a classroom. view article arw

Colin Strother and Florencio Rendon’s plea deals expose an elaborate scheme aimed at concealing Cuellar’s finances.  Two former consultants to U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar have agreed to plead guilty to assisting the lawmaker in laundering hundreds of thousands of dollars from a Mexican bank.   Colin Strother, the South Texas Democrat’s former campaign manager, and Florencio “Lencho” Rendon struck separate deals with the U.S. Department of Justice in March, where they agreed to cooperate with the investigation.  The first of the two to come clean was Strother, who signed his agreement on March 6. Nine days later, Rendon entered into his deal with federal prosecutors.  In Rendon’s agreement, the operation’s origins are stated to have begun in 2015, when Rendon met with Banco Azteca executives at Cuellar’s behest to discuss supposed regulatory issues facing the bank. view article arw

A high-profile healthcare lawsuit in Beaumont, Texas, is flying under the radar—which is just how the federal government and Pfizer want it. The Department of Justice recently argued that a whistleblower lawsuit against Pfizer, filed by Brook Jackson, should be dismissed. Jackson, a 20-year veteran in clinical trial administration employed by a third-party vendor (Ventavia Research Group), worked on Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine trials in 2020. Alarmed by what she witnessed, Jackson raised concerns to her superiors, Pfizer, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in September 2020. She claimed the trial was being run, documented, and reported in a manner that violated Federal law and was potentially dangerous. view article arw

Socorro Independent School District trustees Pablo Barrera and Ricardo “Richard’ Castellano, and his wife Gabriela Castellano, allegedly targeted district employees at schools where they had personal connections, according to indictments released Friday. Ricardo Castellano, 61, and Gabriela Castellano, 57, were indicted on two counts each of obstruction or retaliation involving Gabriela Elliott, a former principal at Bill Sybert School, where Gabriela Castellano was a third-grade teacher, according to an indictment filed April 25 to the El Paso County District Clerk. view article arw

A member of the Socorro Independent School District Board of Trustees and his wife were arrested Thursday, May 9 and charged with obstruction or retaliation, according to court records. Ricardo Castellano is the second Socorro ISD Trustee to be arrested on Thursday, April 9. view article arw

Last year's Houston ISD Principal of the Year has been asked to resign, amid Superintendent Mike Miles' firing frenzy. The HISD Board of Managers unanimously approved a measure Thursday night allowing the district to cut dozens of staff and teaching positions as part of a “reduction in force” before the beginning of the 2024-25 school year. view article arw

The mother of a boy who attacked a girl in his second-grade classroom is sharing their side of the story. According to the district, the incident happened at Burton Elementary in Fort Bend ISD on May 1. After receiving backlash, the mother said she's speaking out to protect her and her son's identity. "As a parent, yes, I am going to say my child is wrong for hitting her," the mom said. She said violence isn't something she condones in her household. view article arw

Socorro school board members Pablo Barrera and Ricardo “Richard’ Castellano were arrested Thursday on charges that appear to be related to official duties. Castellano’s wife, Gabriela, a former teacher in Socorro Independent School District, also was arrested. The nature of the charges appear to be related to official duties. view article arw

A member of the Socorro Independent School District Board of Trustees was arrested Thursday, May 9 for official oppression and other related charges, according to court records. view article arw

Two Socorro Independent School District trustees were arrested Thursday on various charges. According to El Paso County jail records, SISD Trustee for District 5 Pablo Barrera was arrested and charged with improper influence, coercion of a public servant/voter, obstruction or retaliation and official oppression. view article arw

The U.S. Department of Education is seeking to negotiate with Carroll ISD over civil rights complaints, lawyers for the families announced this week. Thursday’s announcement follows a years-long investigation into alleged racism and harassment in the district going back to 2021. view article arw

A former Humble ISD Spanish teacher sued the district Thursday, alleging trustees and administrators violated the Voting Rights Act by holding all at-large elections for the school board. view article arw

The United States Department of Education has launched an investigation into Katy Independent School District after receiving a Title IX complaint regarding a policy passed by the district in August that civil rights advocates deemed as anti-transgender. The complaint was filed by Students Engaged in Advancing Texas (SEAT), a student-led movement that aims to include youth influence in educational policy. view article arw

A Northside ISD instructional assistant was arrested Thursday after he was accused of assaulting a non-verbal, autistic student. According to an arrest warrant affidavit, Jacob Hallam, who was employed at Connally Middle School, was caught on camera slapping a special education student several times in late January. The video also showed Hallam grabbing the student’s face and forcing her to swallow her food in the cafeteria. He then punched the student in the face and stomach, the affidavit stated. view article arw

A Forney ISD Employee is on administrative leave pending investigation due to alleged unwanted contact with a student. According to a release from the district, a report was promptly filed at Forney High School about a staff member making unwanted contact with a student during class. This staff member has been swiftly placed on administrative leave pending investigation by Forney ISD police. view article arw

Gov. Greg Abbott ordered the Texas Education Agency on Monday to ignore a Biden administration rule that expanded federal sex discrimination protections to include LGBTQ+ students. The Biden administration recently revised the rules for Title IX, the sweeping civil rights law that prohibits sex-based discrimination at federally funded colleges and K-12 schools. The new rules, which are set to go into effect in August, redefined sex discrimination and sex-based harassment to prevent misconduct based on sex stereotypes, pregnancy, gender identity and sexual orientation. It codifies initial guidance documents that prompted Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to sue the Biden administration last year. view article arw