Crane awarded state grant

To help keep up with demand for educators, Crane ISD was recently awarded a $90,000 Texas COVID Acceleration Learning Support grant through the Texas Education Agency.

Superintendent Stephanie Howard said it will be used to support paraprofessionals and high school students who want to get into teaching.

This will give the district a chance to engage high school age students who want to be teachers and get them on track for the course work they will need, Howard said.

“… Teachers are the single most important factor in student success and many times in this business (with) the traditional way of going to school to be a teacher you may not have been in a classroom with students until toward the end of your teacher prep. This is going to allow our high school students to begin taking education and teaching classes early on and make sure that really is something they want to do and give them early access to that,” Howard said.

It’s also exciting to be able to support paraprofessionals interested in the field. They’re working with students on campuses right now and they have decided it’s something they want to pursue.

“… This just allows us the opportunity to support them in that process and financial assistance as they go through the program,” Howard said.

Crane has 1,160 students in grades prek-4 through 12 and 85 teachers.

“I think … teacher retention in general is a challenge. One of the things that we’ll be looking at is ways to retain our teachers. Our … turnover rate has been higher than the state average in previous years, so that’s definitely something I’m looking at. We’ll be working throughout the year to look at ways to better retain our teachers, looking at compensation and structuring our salary plans in a way that is very competitive … We have excellent benefits in Crane. … We pay full insurance for our employees. They’re not out of pocket anything for insurance. We have a 6 percent matching annuity, so if any of our employees want to contribute up to 6 percent into their own retirement plan then we match that, or their own investment plan. That’s unheard of. …,” Howard said.

She added that there are other incentives for staying with the district.

“… That’s going to be a big focus for us and we want to make sure that we’re retaining our great employees and then recruiting outstanding ones as well when we need new people,” Howard said.

Some details on the grant have not yet been worked out since it was just awarded.

They are working on possible academies with Odessa College focusing on teacher preparation, but also some career and technical education areas.

“We have a high level of interest in welding, but we’re not offering welding right now so that’s something that we’re definitely interested in and looking at. We have the facilities. We just would need the teacher and then to upgrade our equipment,” Howard said. “That’s work that we’ll be doing this year to get ready for next year.”

She added that Crane has a nice facility “just sitting empty.” She worked with welding instructor Nat Armendarez and Ector County ISD Executive Director of CTE Carla Byrne. Armendarez looked at the facility.

“I don’t know what a welding lab needs, but a welder does. He was very helpful in doing that …,” Howard said.

She added that she appreciates her team coming together so quickly on the grant.

“… It was … a quick turnaround. I got here July 23. We had to submit it Aug. 20. All of that was in the middle of professional learning; starting school. It goes along with the beginning of the year, so it was one more thing for them to do, but they pulled together and were able to get it done and that’s why we have the money,” Howard said.