Board extends Muri’s contract

In a 6-0 vote, the Ector County ISD Board of Trustees extended Superintendent Scott Muri’s contract and gave him a raise Tuesday night.

The board extended by one year to the end of June 30, 2026, and raised his salary from $300,900 to $309,927. The board also increased the district’s contribution to Muri’s retirement. Board Vice President Steve Brown made the motion and Donna Smith seconded.

This is the same percentage increase being given to all full-time classroom teachers.
Board member Nelson Minyard left before the executive session and was not there for the vote.

“I love being here,” Muri said.

Trustees also approved hiring Cindy Retana as executive director of leadership. Muri said she had that role at Soccer ISD.

They also tabbed Keeley Simpson as chief of schools. Simpson joined ECISD in July as executive director of leadership. Her professional experience includes three years as regional superintendent for Portland Public Schools, one year as school support officer in Houston ISD, and 10 years as either a principal or assistant principal in Houston ISD, the board recap said.

Retana comes to ECISD from Socorro ISD in El Paso. She has served as assistant superintendent of schools for the past three years. Prior to that, over a period of eight years she was a principal across elementary, middle school and high school campuses. She was also a middle school assistant principal and a counselor.

On another item, trustees unanimously approved a total tax rate of $1.17792 per $100 valuation at their meeting Tuesday night.

Minyard made the motion on the tax rate and Chris Stanley seconded it.

The total rate is unchanged from last year. The maintenance and operation rate is now $1.05170 per $100 valuation total tax rate and the interest and sinking (debt service) has increased from $.12322 per $100 valuation in 2020-21 and $.12622 per $100 valuation for 2021-22.

ECISD Chief Financial Officer Deborah Ottmers said the tax rate does not exceed the “no new revenue tax rate,” exceed the voter approved tax rate, provide for maintenance and operation revenues that exceed the amount imposed in the prior year, so no special language was required.

Ottmers said ECISD wanted to keep the total tax the same. The state is requiring that they reduce the maintenance and operations rate so they are increasing the interest and sinking rate a slight amount.

Ottmers said that will allow them to repay nearly $5.7 million in bonds from 2012-13. She added that this will save the district some $2.5 million in interest costs.

In other business, the board:

>> Approved campus improvement plans for schools across the district. Board member Delma Abalos said some of the plans were good and some were not.

Abalos said some didn’t take them seriously. In the future, she said she would like to see if they are following their own plans to “help us get out of the academic situation that we’re in.”

Under a memorandum of understanding with Third Future Schools, ECISD will provide dyslexia, English as a second language and copier leases.

A memorandum of understanding with Acceleration Academies was approved.

Plans are to hire 10 to 12 highly qualified Texas staff members to lead the academy; identify and build out a store front using the Edmentum curriculum; recruit a list of eligible students; operate the program using its proprietary technology platform; and report data to the district.

Muri said more than 2,000 students between age 16-21 would be eligible, but they would not be able to serve all of them.

“I think this is such a worthwhile cause. It’s exciting. I will be glad when they get open,” Abalos said.

School Nutrition Director Brandon Reyes gave a presentation on his department and said they are serving the most students in his department’s history with roughly 18,000 lunches and 16,000 breakfasts.

The district offers universal feeding meaning every student gets a free breakfast and lunch and a super snack.

The board praised Reyes and his staff for their efforts and innovation.

“We have kids every day that the only meals they get are at school. Thank you for pushing that. You have to push through layers of administration to make that happen,” Muri said.

Trustees held a public hearing on an application of 1PointFive P1 LLC for Appraised Value Limitation on Qualified Property, pursuant to Chapter 313 of the Texas Tax Code.

Chapter 313 agreements were created by the 2001 Texas Legislature to allow communities to attract specifically defined companies/projects through limiting the school district’s maintenance and operations (daily operations) taxable valuation for ten years. The agreement remains fully taxable for interest and sinking (debt service) tax purposes at all times.

The agreement stipulates the school district cannot be financially worse off by entering into the agreement. The company is planning to build a direct air capture facility; it manufactures industrial grade carbon dioxide. This value limitation would set a taxable value on the facility of $100 million dollars from 2025-2035 as it pertains to the M&O portion of ECISD’s tax rate, the board recap said.

Trustees voted 7-0 to approve a resolution adopting findings of fact and approving the application of 1PointFive P1 LLC for appraised value limitation on qualified property. In a separate action, they voted 7-0 to approve an agreement with 1PointFive P1 LLC for limitation on appraised value of property for school district maintenance and operation taxes under Chapter 313 of the Texas Tax Code.

>> Trustees voted 7-0 to accept for consideration an application for an appraised value limitation on qualified property from GCC Permian, LLC, assess project application fee, authorize superintendent to review the application for completeness, submit application to the Comptroller and take other action needed. The board recap said this is a cement company seeking to add additional capacity at its existing facility, projected to be a $230 million investment. The application period could take several months.

The board voted 7-0 to approve a letter of engagement with Culwell Consulting LLC for Chapter 313 agreement services. Culwell Consulting will provide guidance to ECISD through the GCC Permian LLC application process, the recap said.

Trustees voted 7-0 to approve the pre-payment of a portion of the District’s outstanding unlimited tax refunding bonds, Series 2012, and a portion of the District’s outstanding unlimited tax school building bond, Series 2013. By prepaying more than $1.4 million in the Series 2012 bonds and more than $4.2 million in the Series 2013 bonds, ECISD can save taxpayers approximately $2.5 million in future interest payments. The early payments are scheduled to be made in February 2022.

Special presentations included recognition of Stephanie Howard’s tenure as deputy superintendent at ECISD with the board’s “Extra Mile” Award. She is now superintendent at Crane ISD; the announcement of the Texas Art Education Association “District of Distinction” award to ECISD for visual arts; and presentation, by Region 18 Education Service Center, of the Regional School Board of the Year honor for the 2020-21 school year.

In his opening comments, Muri said he and board members would be traveling this weekend to the annual TASA/TASB (Texas Association of School Administrators/Texas Association of School Boards) fall conference for a weekend of learning with other school board members and school district leaders from around the state. He also mentioned that the third legislative session was underway and a bill filed today could negatively impact school funding, and he would keep trustees updated on it as it moves through the legislative process.