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Trustees hear recommendations from Community Bond Committee

The Ector County ISD Board of Trustees held its January Workshop on the 11h.  A recap of the agenda is below.

 

  1. Roll Call. Carol Gregg, Nelson Minyard, and Dr. Steve Brown were absent.

 

  1. Verification of compliance with open meetings requirements.

 

  1. In his opening comments, Superintendent Dr. Scott Muri touched on several topics. First, he told Trustees the COVID-19 cases are rising very quickly among students and staff members. In fact, he said the total of cases reported over the last two days nearly 500 positive cases have been reported. He said ECISD’s positivity rate is mirroring that of the county as a whole. He said internal testing is up and running and ECISD nurses are providing tests to students (with parent permission) and staff who request one; a drive-through testing process for employees is now being put into place for those who are not at work. Dr. Muri added, new air purifiers have been received and are being put into classrooms and offices throughout the district. Sanitizing of buildings and buses is done regularly. He concluded, ECISD does not plan to close schools but is planning for the possibility of staff absences leaving a school without enough adults to safely operate a campus, and that could lead to a school being closed temporarily. Second, he congratulated the Board of Trustees for being invited to be part of the inaugural Raise Your Hand Texas Trustee Advocates Program. Of the 1,029 school districts in Texas, 27 applied for this learning opportunity and only 9 received invitations. The 18-month fellowship gives Texas school boards and their superintendents the tools they need to find, use and amplify their voices and the voices of their communities to influence state education policy. We are proud of our Trustees for earning a spot in this first group of districts. Third, Dr. Muri delivered remarkable news regarding ECISD’s performance on recent SAT Tests. He walked the board members through a comparison of SAT scores from October 2020 to October 2021, the dates of ECISD’s SAT School Days which are offered free to all high school seniors. More than 500 students participated each year. In 2021, ECISD’s Mean Score jumped by 40 points; ECISD’s Writing scored improved by 17 points; and ECISD’s Math score went up by 22 points. During this same time the State’s scores fell. In fact, he pointed out, all of ECISD’s scores in October 2021 exceeded the state’s scores. The district made several changes aimed at improving SAT results, from providing resources for teachers, to embedding SAT-prep into daily lessons, to hosting Boot Camps for kids. He congratulated the students, teachers and administrators who all worked extremely hard to effect extraordinary change.    

 

  1. There was no public comment.

 

  1. Reports/Discussion items

A. Wrapping up six months of study, the community bond committee gave Trustees its final report and recommendations. The committee consisted of 61 members (more started the facilities evaluation in December 2019 before the COVID school closures and all were invited to resume the process in July 2021). The committee’s charge included three specific actions:

  • Review the Facilities Assessment Study regarding physical condition and other assessments of all current facilities
  • Consider options for existing, renovated and/or new facilities; implications of projected enrollment; anticipated instructional programs; technology; operations; and cost
  • Develop and present to the Board of Trustees a facilities and recommendations for a future bond election will serve the District as a baseline for the next five years.

Over six months, the committee held eight meetings, two community meetings, and two deep-dive work sessions. It is estimated the members of the bond committee invested between 40-90 each on this work.

The committee’s guiding principles were: the academic needs of students must come first; facilities that promote academic success are priorities; as are those in the worst physical condition (over-capacity or aging or both); utilize existing buildings efficiently while planning for the future.

Of ECISD’s 60 facilities, half (31) are more than 60 years old. A demographic study projects growth in the coming years with ECISD potentially topping 35,700 students by 2028.  The Facility Assessment Study evaluated all aspects (mechanical, electrical, plumbing and much more) of every building in ECISD. The study scaled the needs as Priority 1 (needs to be addressed in 1-2 years), Priority 2 (should be addressed in the next 3-5 years), Priority 3 (6-10 years), and Priority 4 (11 or more years out). It identified more than $175 million in Priority 1 and Priority 2 repairs, maintenance and needs. The committee’s presentation listed those priority needs – see them here (along with the full presentation).

The committee also heard presentations from ECISD department leaders and considered those needs as well. Departments like athletics, fine arts, career and technical education, technology, transportation and others.

Architectural firm PBK, the company that performed the Facilities Assessment Study, led the committee through a study of current costs for school construction including standard student enrollment and acreage guidelines.

The committee also gave considerable attention to a community survey, conducted by the District, that polled 1,000 Ector County voters on a variety of school district topics, potential bond projects, and the tax implication of several different bond amounts.

As the conclusion of its current work, the Community Bond Committee recommended that Trustees prioritize: Priority 1 and Priority 2 repairs and maintenance needs for all schools ($175 million – note: Priority 1 is slightly more than $52 million); future growth and campus safety by building a new comprehensive high school ($183 million); expand job training and career education with a state-of-the-art Career & Technical Education Center ($70 million); and replace/improve technology across the District ($33 million). Based on survey feedback, the committee recommends the Board should review these recommendations and build a bond proposal that will be less than $400 million dollars, and Trustees should look to hold a bond election on May 7, 2022.   

      *Trustees asked why the committee did not recommend new elementary schools or new middle schools at this time? The committee said they listened to the community survey responses, as to what they would support, and the committee stuck to its guiding principles and the concept of “worst, first.” They felt the greatest needs were in the high schools where there is no room for growth/expansion of Odessa High School and Permian High School. They said they must alleviate that over-crowding by building a new high school. The facility review indicates there is some under-utilization of middle school and elementary school areas at this moment, though they added it will need to be addressed in the not-to-distant future.

 

 

B. Trustees heard a presentation from the To-and-Through Success Center, which is designed to provide support to students as they graduate high school, as well as make resources available to help students complete their college degree, industry certificate or other post-secondary pursuit they choose. Post-secondary enrollment AND post-secondary completion are Indicators of Success for ECISD’s Strategic Plan. The office has formed more than 30 partnerships with two-year and four-year institutions to help track ECISD grads, and helps with college admission requirements including FAFSA and TASFA completion for high school seniors and ECISD alumni. Using an online platform called ACCESS, ECISD kids explore various careers with professionals from this region. College tours, mentorships, workshops and scholarship opportunities are also part of the To-and-Through work. The office is in the early stages of building an ECISD Alumni network.  

 

  1. There was no closed session.

 

  1. In his closing remarks, Dr. Muri announced that Trustees Nelson Minyard is resigning from the school board later this month. He thanked Mr. Minyard for his nine years of service and looked forward to recognizing him in person at next week’s board meeting.   

 

The meeting adjourned at 8:28 p.m.