ECISD working toward bringing Ector back into the fold

Ector College Prep Middle School sixth-grade math teacher September Garrett gives her students a math problem during class in September of this year. (Odessa American File Photo)

With Third Future charter school network having fulfilled its goal of turning Ector Middle School around, Ector County ISD plans to take it back into the fold July 1, 2024.

Under Third Future, the campus is called Ector College Prep. As of July 1, 2024, every employee will be part of ECISD and follow its compensation system and school year. Ector College Prep’s year is longer.

On the average, Third Future Schools’ teacher salaries are $74,000 a year. Third Future operates schools in Colorado, Texas and Louisiana.

Since there has not been a board vote yet, Third Future said it could not comment yet.

“We will start working in the second semester with Third Future for a smooth transition. Third Future has done a good job. They want a smooth transition … We want a smooth transition because we all care about the families and the students that attend Ector Middle School. The second semester, we’ll be transitioning with them. Any staff members that are there that are not ECISD employees will have to apply for ECISD positions just because … some of them are not our employees,” Superintendent Scott Muri said. “They would have to apply for a position, but the middle school will be fully staffed so we’ll need all the teachers; we’ll need administrators; we’ll need custodians and cafeteria (staff); all of the personnel that we need to operate a school.”

Muri said they want all the effective staff members to remain.

As far as instruction, he said there will be some things ECISD wants to reintroduce to the school.

“We want it to have a vibrant fine and performing arts program. We want it to have a vibrant career and technical education program. We want a vibrant elective portfolio for the kids that attend school there. … We’ve also learned a lot over the last four years about how to effectively operate a middle school. The district hasn’t always done that … We’ve now proven that we can do that … We want Ector Middle School to continue to be effective. There will be some adjustments, but some of the things that are happening there may remain,” Muri said.

He added that ECISD will work in collaboration with the staff and families that are there.

“There may be some things that are happening that they want to keep; some ways of doing things that may not be visible in other schools, but they really want, so we’ll work with them as well,” Muri said.

Some families may want to transfer to a different middle school and others may come back.

“Sometimes if your child has had two years at another middle school, you may want to finish the eighth grade year just … (to avoid) … having another transition. That can be challenging for kids. We’ll let them decide. Just like there could be families that want to transfer out starting July 1 into another middle school because they’re happy with the way it is now, so we’ll honor that. We have an open enrollment opportunity in ECISD, so people can pick and choose as they wish,” Muri said.

Third Future was brought in to improve the academic status of Ector. They replaced Ector Success Academy Network.

“It was an F school; had been for many years. It’s not that the district wanted to move to a charter provider, but the district, in 2019, didn’t have a choice. It was entering its fifth year and so we partnered with one provider (Ector Success Academy Network), and that relationship didn’t work out. This is the second charter organization that’s been there and they’ve … done a good job. The school now has a B rating. The school no longer has the consequences, if you will, provided by the Texas Education Agency, so we’re able to take it back into the fold. They’ve done what we asked them to do. We had a written contract; they fulfilled the contract, so we’re able to take the school back,” Muri said.

Whenever a school has had an F rating for multiple years, he said, the model isn’t working.

“That’s an adult issue; not kid issue. The adults in that environment didn’t create something that was good for kids. The transition was made. The adults now have created a better environment and kids are doing well academically, so that’s a good thing. We want that in every school in ECISD,” Muri said.

He added that the campus is now performing at a healthy level and it’s ECISD’s responsibility to maintain that and not backslide.

“It cannot go back to what it was. And to be honest with you, if we didn’t feel confident as an organization that we knew how to do this work, we would not take the school back. … Our middle schools are performing much better than they have in many, many years. We know what we’re doing, and we’re going to do that at Ector Middle School as well,” Muri said.

He added that having healthy extracurricular activities such has arts, athletics and career and technical education at the middle school level helps programming at the high schools.

“It creates students that are better prepared for those opportunities. The students at Ector Middle School will have that opportunity, so that’s a win for them,” Muri said.

He added that the district will be glad to have Ector back.

“It will be good for the whole community. I think the community’s ready for us. I know our board is excited to bring them back in the fold. I know that the other schools, Odessa High School and others that worked with them are glad that they’ll be one of us again,” Muri said.