District working toward bond next steps

Ector County Independent School District Superintendent Scott Muri answers questions during an interview Friday afternoon, March 11, 2022, at the ECISD Administration Building. (Odessa American/Eli Hartman)

With one of three propositions passing in its Nov. 7 $436,109,000 bond election, Ector County ISD is planning ahead.

Prop A passed with 56.83 percent, or 5,557 votes for and 43.17 percent against, or 4,222 votes.

Proposition B had 52.06 percent or 5,072 voting against it and 47.94 percent, or 4,670 for.

Proposition C had 54.13 percent or 5,629 voting against it and 45.87 percent or 4,465 voting for it.

Proposition A for $424,263,000 includes a new Career & Technical Education Center to be located in south Odessa/Ector County; a new middle school to be located in west Ector County; districtwide maintenance and repairs; new bus purchases and a new transportation facility.

Also replacement of the district phone system, PA/bell/clock/fire alarm system replacements; a security camera refresh; classroom interactive flat panels; large group instruction area audio/visual equipment.

Complete renovation of the Permian High School Auditorium; replacing outdated instruments; performance risers for all middle school choirs; classroom instruments for elementary campuses; uniforms for middle school bands and mariachi; JROTC facility needs.

Additionally, the complete replacement of the Transition Learning Center for students with special needs learning to transition from school to the workforce; complete replacement of classroom buildings and barns; LED lighting at the Odessa High School baseball and tennis stadiums; LED lighting at the Permian High School baseball stadium; resurfacing of tennis stadiums at all middle schools; replacement of indoor bleachers in main gyms of all middle schools; and land purchases.

During his media call Wednesday, Superintendent Scott Muri said first they will organize each of the projects in the bond over a five-year timeline.

“Our bond program is designed to last for five years, so we will be creating a five-year roadmap that will allow not only our organization to understand the next steps and project timeline, but also the public. We’ll be posting all that information on the website starting in the month of January,” Muri said.

“Right now, our board of trustees is working on the appointment of a bond oversight committee. This committee will be named during the month of December. Our board members will select 10 individuals from our community to serve on that committee. We’re asking each of those individuals to commit to a five-year term of service as the bond will take approximately five years in order to implement. In addition to the naming of the committee, the board of trustees will also create a charge for the committee to help those committee members understand their specific purpose,” he added.

The committee will officially take their seats in January and meet quarterly.

“They will meet with members of the administrative team, and once a year, they will report to the board of trustees on the progress of the bond and what they’re seeing from their observation perspective,” Muri said.

The next step the district is taking is the purchase of land.

“We currently have several pieces of property that we’re working with. The new middle school will be located on approximately 40 acres on South Tripp Avenue and we have a contract for that piece of property, so we’ll be procuring that property in the next month or so.

“In addition to that, the organization Grow Odessa donated about 38 acres to ECISD for the construction of our new career and technical education facility that is the southeast portion of Ector County.”

ECISD also has a 170-acre property that is under contract in the northern part of the county known as the Sunset Golf Course, 9301 Andrews Highway.

Asked what happens if people don’t like the location of property for a school or facility, Muri said that is always the case.

“I think there will always be folks that like things and people that don’t like things. But at the end of the day, we have to make decisions that are in the best interest of the children that we serve … so I applaud our board of trustees for constantly and consistently making decisions that are in the best interests of the 33,500 students that we serve every single day in our organization,” Muri said.

A new middle school will take about a year and a half to build.

“We will start our processes for a new middle school during the month of January and February. We anticipate a full year of selecting architects and engineers, selecting contractors, creating the design for the new middle school (and) engaging the community in that process. That will take 2024. We expect to break ground on a new middle school in January of 2025. It will take about a year and a half to build, so that will mean opening the new middle school for the fall of 2026, so the ’26-27 school year,” Muri said.

Construction delays, supply chain and equipment issues can always delay that.

“The opposite can happen, too, potentially. There are opportunities to accelerate construction, but right now, we anticipate about two and a half years with design development, implementation and then opening for that school,” Muri said. “Our career and technical education center would be about the same, so again, starting work for design and development in the new year, January-February, and engaging a lot of folks in design and development and then breaking ground in 2025 and opening … in 2026.”

Other projects that aren’t as large won’t take as long.

“We will be mapping those out on a timeline and we’ll post that in the month of January so folks can take a look at that list,” Muri said.

As for utilities on the South Tripp site where the middle school will be, Muri said they are not concerned.

“We’ve talked to the right folks and are making some good progress on all of that as far as utilities are concerned,” he said.

On a separate item, Muri said ECISD was excited this week to release its SAT scores.

“The annual Scholastic Aptitude Test is given during the school day to our high school students that select to participate,” Muri said. “This year those results from the month of October were just released to the district and we had a 13-point increase from last year’s results to this year’s results. We’d like to congratulate the seniors this year on the significant improvement; also the teachers and administrators and those that have poured into the lives of those kids over the last many years.”

“SAT scores don’t just happen during your senior year,” he added. “They happen throughout your journey pre-K through 12th grade. … We continue to outpace the state of Texas … The state actually saw an SAT decrease (and) ECISD saw an increase; not only an increase but our score continues to be above the state of Texas. Kudos to students and teachers that support them for those two accomplishments.”

During the regular board meeting Nov. 14, ECISD was once again presented with a clean audit.

On prospects for legislative funding to schools, Muri said House Bill 1 will be taken up and he anticipates it will be discussed Friday in the Texas House.

“I’m not at this point very optimistic that much will happen with that bill. Public education across the state of Texas needs significant funding. We rank among the lowest funded school districts in the nation. Texas needs to do better for the work that we do,” Muri said.

“We have significant needs not only in ECISD, but across the state. We completely depend upon our state legislature to guide funding within our school system so we certainly implore … them to invest deeply in public education that right now serves 5.5 million children in our state. Our own community said yes to that. There is no greater investment than the investment that we can make in our community’s children, and so our state legislature, again, has a wonderful opportunity to invest deeply in public education so we strongly encourage them to do that.”