During the last few weeks of District-of-Innovation craziness, one of the DOI exemptions that garnered a great deal of attention was the ability for school districts to certify their own teachers rather than hiring teachers certified by the State of Texas.

In the early days of my career, I remember working with career and technology education (CTE) teachers who didn’t hold Texas teaching certificates. Rather, they were hired based on industry certification combined with work experience. I don’t remember when that changed, but it did.

During my DOI research, I contacted Dr. Art Cavazos, superintendent of Harlingen CISD. HCISD has a DOI designation. With the DOI exemption, HCISD will allow individuals certified in career and technology (CTE) industries to teach with a “school district teaching permit.” HCISD’s plan also indicates the district may exercise this option later for other non-CTE, non-core courses. I asked Dr. Cavazos what a “school district permit” means. He used HCISD’s Harlingen School of Health Professions as an example. One program at this school is pharmacology. Through their plan, he said, HCISD can hire a professional certified in the industry to teach one or two sections of the pharmacology course, which is like colleges hiring adjunct professors. To earn their “school district teaching permit,” this instructor must go through the district’s new teacher professional development (approximately 20 hours of training) and have a mentor at the school for three years. Dr. Cavazos emphasized that he is a “big proponent of protecting our profession” and insisted they are only looking at “industry experts” for “hard-to-fill positions.”

In researching DOI, I learned that offering local certification is possible without a DOI designation. In a letter written September 1, 2015, from Ryan Franklin, Texas associate commissioner for educator leadership and quality, to Texas public school superintendents, he began with this reminder: Since 1995, Texas law has allowed school districts to issue a school district teaching permit to someone who does not hold a teaching certificate subject to approval by the commissioner of education (Texas Education Code §21.055). He then explained that during the 84th Legislature (2015), this section of the TEC was modified, allowing Texas public school districts to hire teachers, without the approval of the commissioner of education, for any noncore academic career and technology education course (Texas Education Code §21.055 (d-1)). This went into effect September 1, 2015, and has absolutely nothing to do with DOI.

This is how it works, according to Franklin’s letter:

A local board of trustees may issue the school district teaching permit for an individual teaching a noncore academic CTE course based on qualifications certified by the superintendent. Under the new law, the individual’s qualifications must include demonstrated subject matter expertise, such as:

• professional work experience

• formal training and education

• relevant industry license, certification, or registration

• any combination of work experience, training and education, or industry credential related to the subject matter he or she will be teaching.

No bachelor’s degree is required. The superintendent is also required to certify to the board that a criminal background check has been done and that the person can handle classroom management. The district is required to provide their new hire with at least 20 hours of classroom management and any other continuing education courses the board feels are necessary.

Once the teacher has been ‘locally certified’ through these steps, the district must send a written statement to the commissioner of education identifying the new hire, outlining the courses he/she will teach, and providing the qualifications he/she has to teach these courses.

In Part II on this topic, I will explain the significant difference between the 20 hours of classroom management required through this ‘teaching permit’ and the hours required of teachers currently going through an alternative certification program for state certification (if the person did not go through a traditional college or university education program).

In the meantime, let’s start a dialogue on the Valley Town Crier’s website and on Facebook discussing how you feel about districts locally certifying teachers.


Chris Ardis retired in May of 2013 following a 29-year teaching career. She now helps companies with business communications and social media and works as a sales coordinator for Tony Roma's and Macaroni Grill. Chris can be reached at cardis1022@aol.com.