Board discusses one-time retention stipend

A proposed one-time retention incentive/stipend was proposed and budget discussions were held during the Ector County ISD board of trustees meeting Tuesday night.

Superintendent Scott Muri said the district has about $6 million in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief or ESSER funds that were awarded during COVID.

Muri said the district wouldn’t be able to provide a raise this year, so this would reward employees who plan to return next fall.

The item was not put to a vote Tuesday night because there is still more work to do on the item, Muri said. But the board consensus was that they are for it.

Chief Financial Officer Deborah Ottmers said when the board adopts the budget, some language will have to be put in so the stipends can be paid.

The district is facing a $24 million deficit for next year and Muri said an employee raise would bring it up to $34 million.

Out of 4,200 employees, Muri said they expect 3,500 to return next year. Some part-time employees would not be eligible.

“We would propose a 3 percent of base pay stipend. That would be about $6 million,” Muri said.

The average would be about $1,950 and for hourly employees, the average would be about $930.

Muri said the amount would be based upon employees’ base salary, not any other salaries they receive. The minimum stipend anybody would receive would be $500, he said.

Muri emphasized that it would be a retention stipend so it would only be for those employees who are returning in the fall and it’s one-time.

“This is not something we would do year after year,” he added.

The benefit to the employee is “It’s a large sum of money.”

“It’s the typical 3 percent they are used to seeing. The con to the employee is it doesn’t affect their retirement …,” Muri said.

He added that employees would keep a little bit more money than they would if retirement was taken out.

People who start with ECISD in the fall will not get the stipend.

“I applaud you for finding a way to do something,” trustee Dawn Miller said. “This is a very creative approach.”

Trustee Wayne Woodall said speaking as a teacher this is very important and it’s a big deal, especially with no new state funding for public education.

Trustees received an update on the progress of Bond 2023 projects.

The board recap said a local Career & Technical Education committee is studying ideas for the new CTE Center. The committee has met three times so far and has made two site visits to existing CTE Centers – CTECH in Hobbs, New Mexico, and the LIFT Center in Abilene.

Another committee is at work studying middle schools. This committee has met twice and has scheduled a site visit to Griffin MS in Lewisville for May 3.

This Friday, two architectural firms will host project planning sessions for the Transportation Center, Permian High School auditorium, JROTC projects, and the middle school.

The Fine Arts Department has now ordered 135 instruments at a cost of $372,000 and 26 of those have arrived and are on campus being used by students.

Regarding interactive flat panels, the IT Department anticipates installation will be complete in all classrooms by June.

In the finance update, money has now been encumbered for land purchases, architect services, technology items, fine arts instruments, and athletics projects. A little more than $20 million has been encumbered, which is about 5% of the total bond cost, the recap said.

Looking forward, two Requests for Qualifications are currently posted for Geotechnical & Special Testing and Construction Manager at Risk, and contracts are being finalized with architects DLR for the new Transition Learning Center and with JSA for the new Agricultural Farm.

The board also approved Stephanie Moran as principal of Buice Elementary School; transferring Dora Flores to principal of Cavazos Elementary School from Burleson Elementary; Anthony Garcia as an executive director of leadership; and Taylor Roy as executive director of guidance, counseling and wellness.

Moran is currently serving as the interim principal at Buice. She began her career with ECISD as a teacher and coach in 1997. She served eight years as an instructional coach and five years as an assistant principal at Bonham Middle School and Odessa High School.

She was a participant in ECISD’s Aspiring Principals Academy.

Garcia is the principal of Odessa High School and before that was the principal at Wilson & Young Medal of Honor Middle School. He has five years of experience as a principal and four years as an assistant principal. He is one of seven ECISD principals taking part in the Holdsworth Campus Leadership Program, a two-year program designed to grow stronger school leaders.

Roy is currently the director of guidance and counseling for ECISD. She has 10 years of public education experience with four years as a counselor serving both elementary and middle schools in ECISD. She also had five years of elementary and middle school teaching experience prior to joining ECISD.

Trustees also approved leasing the Sunset Golf Course back to the golf course through the summer while environmental studies are being completed on the property.

The district intends to buy the property for future growth and development for $3.4 million. The golf course is located at 9301 Andrews Highway and sits on 170 acres.

Tatiana Dennis, an attorney for the district, said ECISD can legally do this as long as certain requirements are met.

Muri said lease payments from the golf course would come back to ECISD’s general fund.