Return to Headlines

Trustees vote to pilot virtual classes with American Sign Language

The Ector County ISD Board of Trustees held its regular meeting for September on the evening of the 18th. A recap of that agenda is below.


Bowie Middle School students Azari Byford and Paige Byford led the pledges of allegiance.


Fr. Timothy Hayter from St. Elizabeth Ann Seaton Church gave the invocation.


Special Presentations included Central Baptist Church and The Petroleum Museum being recognized through the TASB Stand Up for Texas Public Schools program, Permian High School associate band director John Carroll honored with the Texas Bandmaster Association Meritorious Award, four Crockett Middle School students honored for earning spots on the Texas Choral Directors Association Honor Choir, and recognition of The Life Center and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center for their Community Partners Award from the Texas Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.


A. Representatives from the Odessa Chamber of Commerce spoke to the school board members about supporting this year’s Pink the Basin campaign, which raises money and awareness for breast cancer.


B. Trustees heard a presentation of the school improvement goals for the six schools that are in their first year of Improvement Required status. Those schools are Gale Pond Alamo Elementary, Burnet Elementary, West Elementary, Bowie Middle School, Crockett Middle School, and Wilson & Young Middle School. Trustees voted 7-0 to approve the plans.


C. Trustees voted 5-2 to approve an agreement with Proximity Learning to provide virtual teachers for four classes of American Sign Language (ASL) – two at Odessa HS and two at Permian HS. The cost for the teachers is estimated at $60,000. ASL is one of five foreign language options for our high school students. It is the third most popular request behind Spanish and French, and ahead of German and Latin. Of 174 requests for ASL, only 74 students can currently be accommodated (in ASL 2) because of the inability to find teachers for it. Two years of the same foreign language is a requirement for high school graduation. Trustees heard a presentation from Proximity Learning founder and chief executive officer Evan Erdberg. He reassured them that the teachers the company hires are certified, the curriculum is aligned to Texas standards, and the company helps to train the classroom aides who work as facilitators. He said Proximity Learning is now providing teachers to more than 100 school districts in 20 states including 40 school districts in Texas. School board members asked to use these classes as a pilot program, of sorts, and would like an evaluation of the ASL classes by November. That way the board could discuss whether or not this is a viable solution to filling some of the district’s 250 teacher vacancies. Trustees Doyle Woodall and Carol Gregg voted against the motion as read but supported the idea of trying this approach with the ASL classes.


D. There were no purchases over $50,000.


E. Trustees voted 6-0-1 to approve the Consent Agenda. The Consent Agenda is group of routine or previously discussed items approved all at once. Items included on this month’s Consent Agenda were the vote to approve Steven Ortiz, Michelle Smith and Aaron Thomas to the School Health Advisory Council (SHAC); several agreements with Head Start; T-TESS appraisers; the annual agreement with the Education Foundation of Odessa; the agreement with UTPB for dual credit courses; out-of-state travel for OHS cheerleaders; and Board Policy FNCE(Local) Student Conduct: Personal Telecommunications/Electronic Devices. Trustee Delma Abalos abstained from the vote.


F. Trustees spent about 15 minutes in closed session discussing the hiring of a chief of staff/assistant superintendent of secondary education.


G. Trustees voted 7-0 to hire Dr. Stephanie Howard as the chief of staff/assistant superintendent of secondary education. Mrs. Howard worked the past three years as the superintendent of Plains ISD. She formerly worked for ECISD as the executive director of curriculum & instruction, and as the head principal at Lee High School in Midland.


The meeting adjourned at 9:18 p.m.