For its 100th birthday Wednesday, Ector County ISD celebrated with gifts, well wishes and, of course, cookies.
At 1:01 p.m. Aug. 18, 1921, the governor of Texas and the Department of State signed House Bill 58 into law creating the district.
The event was held outside of Austin Montessori Elementary School. Among the attendees were school board members, top administration officials, Celeste Potter, ECISD development director, Steve Patton, Director of the City of Odessa Parks, and Randy Ham, executive director of Odessa Arts.
“The irony is this occurred during a special session of the Texas Legislature, because the world at that time was recovering from the Spanish flu. And so there are some interesting ironies as we think about what’s happening today in our own world and literally what happened 100 years ago,” Superintendent Scott Muri said.
The site where Austin Montessori stands is where the first school was constructed. There were 171 students on that first day of school.
“Our annual budget that year was $2,000. We spent $2,000 educating for one full year of the children of Ector County. … Today, our annual budget is approximately $350 million. And we educate approximately 33,000 children. There was no school cafeteria on that first day of school 100 years ago. Those children, all 171 of them, brought their lunch to school that day with them,” Muri said.
The PTA was formed early on in the history of ECISD. The organization recognized that some of the children had a difficult time bringing lunch to school, they provided lunches for students that were unable to provide a lunch of their own, Muri said.
Running water was added to the school in 1922, so the first year there was no running water in the school. There were also no toilets and no electricity. Electricity and indoor plumbing came on in 1927.
“… Music and sports were offered during that very first year in ECISD for a singular purpose. The purpose of music and sports at that time was to keep kids in school. Specifically football was offered in 1921 to the students of ECISD, specifically to the boys of ECISD to keep them in school because one of their first problems 100 years ago was to keep the boys in school,” Muri said.
“Many of the boys wanted to leave school early to get a job and football was one of those early additions to this program to keep those boys in school so that they could complete an education,” he added.
Ector County was established as a county in the 1800s and there were schools around the area in the late 1800s. The city of Odessa, which was not incorporated in 1921, had 750 residents, so Ector County Independent School District became a county-wide school district.
The early schools that started before 1921 were a part of small ranching communities, Muri said.
“Typically those small schools were built by ranching families to educate the children of the families that lived on the ranches at that time. There were approximately seven schools … dotted around Ector County serving a small number of students,” he said.
Those schools came together in 1921 to form ECISD.
Within a decade and because of the discovery of oil, Odessa’s population grew to 5,000.
The average annual income during that time was $2,134 for an individual living in this area. A new home was $7,019; a new car was $420.
Gas was 11 cents a gallon and a loaf of bread was 11 cents, Muri said.
Part of the leadership that was established in 1921 was a board of trustees to oversee the running the operation of the district.
“We have seven trustees today, and while none of them remember 1921, they continue the legacy of leadership in Ector County Independent School District and they will lead us forward into the next century …,” Muri said.
Adamari Velazco, a sixth-grader at Austin, read a message from Gov. Greg Abbott and fifth-grader Dean Boen read a joint resolution from Rep. Brooks Landgraf, R-Odessa, and Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo.
Potter announced a $100,000 gift from the Education Foundation to provide book vending machines to all schools that do not have them.
“… Yesterday,” Potter said, “we received a truckload of 21,000 books that is going to be delivered to every elementary student in ECISD as a special gift. The Education Foundation board has committed to more than $100,000 to provide a new book vending machine to every school in ECISD that does not currently have one. There are currently 10 machines in ECISD. We’re hoping to unveil another five over the next couple of weeks, and hopefully many more to come after that. We’re in the process of reaching out to all the schools to ensure that they can utilize this machine.”
“These machines dispense books, but these kids don’t buy books with dollars. They get coins for free with a golden Bookworm token that they earn as an incentive. Students earn these tokens for meeting a reading goal, reading growth goals, perfect attendance and any other way that the school deems necessary,” Potter said.
The Education Foundation has also set up a challenge to district alumni on its web page www.ectorcountyisd.org.
“You can go to that website and click on the ECSD 100th anniversary logo, and we’d like to challenge all alumni and just any member of their community to make a donation today in honor of the district’s 100th birthday. All of those dollars raised will go to support literacy efforts right here in the school district,” Potter said.
Patton announced the renovation of Casa Bella Park and planting trees in collaboration with students from Burnet and Dowling elementary schools.
“I’m really excited today to announce that the Odessa Parks Foundation is going to partner with two elementary schools, Burnet and Dowling elementary schools. We’re going to design a new playground for Casa Bella Park located at University and Maple. That is in a small neighborhood park that is in desperate need of a new playground and we’re going to use students to help us with the design. We’re also going to plant trees at that particular park and in commemoration of the 100 year anniversary,” Patton said.
Ham said Odessa Arts recently started a mural assistance program in Odessa.
“… As the 100th anniversary came closer and closer, I started talking to ECISD about a mural project for the celebration of 100 years of ECISD. We have murals that celebrate all kinds of things that have happened here in Odessa. I think it’s very important that we celebrate 100 years of educational excellence in the Permian Basin right here in Odessa,” Ham said. “So Odessa Arts has partnered with the Education Foundation and ECISD to commission a mural that will go on the development office on 10th and Golder,” Ham said. “The call for art will go out nationwide and we will look for the very best in artists. Anybody can apply for this and they will work alongside ECISD visual arts students to create a mural that will be unveiled by the end of this school year. I’m so, so very excited about this because it shows the commitment that the school district continues to have with fine arts,” he added.
Muri said the district plans a large tailgate party before the Odessa-Permian high school football game Oct. 8.
“Ratliff Stadium and the entire complex will be transformed into the world’s largest tailgate party to celebrate the 100th anniversary of ECISD. We have some very special guests that will be joining us that night and so be ready for some interesting announcements over the coming weeks to let you know who is going to be in attendance,” Muri said.
In addition, Muri said they are celebrating with students.
“Our curriculum instruction team has presented some opportunities for our students over the next … several months to explore the history of ECISD; the history of our community. They will be incorporating some lessons — elementary, middle and high school — about the 100th anniversary and our evolution over the last 100 years. Artifacts that we’ve collected will be on display at various schools throughout the organization,” Muri said.
Also Wednesday, every child in ECISD received a 100th anniversary cookie, thanks to the food services team, he added.