Education unification now official

The merger of the Education Partnership of the Permian Basin and Educate Midland announced Tuesday will strengthen the work that educators and business people were already doing toward improving and streamlineing efforts to head in the same direction.

The product of the unification was announced at the Region 18 Education Service Center and featured everyone from university and college presidents, to superintendents, nonprofit, business and industry leaders.

The occasion marked one of the few times that Odessa and Midland have come together for a greater purpose. Other examples are the formation of MOTRAN, the West Texas Food Bank and the Wagner Noel Performing Arts Center.

Educate Midland was organized in 2015 to support and enhance the offerings of Midland Independent School District. One year later, Odessa community leaders organized the Education Partnership of the Permian Basin aimed at improving the overall education offerings in the region, with Odessa public, private, charter and the higher education systems as their main focus area. Both organizations set their sights on the overall improvement of education, yet with differing areas of focus.

Through the years and while partnering on various projects, it became evident to the organizations’ leaders, as is the case with many things in the Midland-Odessa area, we are “better together,” a news release stated.

The organization will adopt the name Education Partnership of the Permian Basin and Adrian Vega will continue to serve as executive director with the addition of Mike Mills and Becca Myers of Educate Midland as team leaders.

The staffs of the organizations have already been working together on several projects, including the POWER Bags benefiting newborns in both communities, as well as the Grow Our Own Network program, which focuses on strengthening educational pathways and experiences for students that are parallel to the workforce needs of our Permian Basin businesses, the release said.

The goal of the united entity is to help improve educational outcomes in the region, cradle to career, the release said.

“This is a momentous occasion for the entire Permian Basin,” said Lorraine Perryman, president of the Education Partnership.

Perryman said she watched the launch of Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos’ civilian flight into space Tuesday morning. In the last nine days, she said, it has been demonstrated that people can leave the Earth and open new pathways for tourism and exploration “and improvements on our planet and for our planet for generations here that will be forthcoming.”

“We are here today for the same kind of blast off, a unification of two very powerful education entities in the Permian Basin — Educate Midland and the Education Partnership of the Permian Basin. They started about a year apart, and over the years it became clear to us that we would never achieve our goals totally — although great work has been done in both organizations — but we would never achieve our goals totally without working together, so we decided to unify. We’re like East and West Germany,” Perryman said.

Ector County ISD Superintendent Scott Muri illustrated the need for teamwork with the story of a senior at a school where he was an administrator. The student was going to drop Spanish II, which Muri said would help his success in college. His mother, who was raising him on her own, didn’t have the resources to help her son, he said.

“But we, being the counselors, the teachers, the administrators and the community, did have the ability to create and effect change in that child’s life. So fast forward, Winston now has a master’s degree and his mom did not do it by herself. She did it because of the power of collective greatness, collective impact as we call it today. But I’ll say greatness and if it can happen in the life of one child, Winston, it can also happen in an entire community …,” Muri said.

Like Vega, Muri noted that ECISD cannot do this work alone.

“… This unification is that very loud statement that as a Basin we can’t do this work alone. It is the power of collective greatness that will allow us to be great for all of us as organizations and for every single child, including the Winstons that we serve every single day,” Muri said.

Students from the Basin feed into Odessa College, Midland College and Howard College and that ultimately feed into UTPB and Sul Ross as they branch out into the region, Vega said.

Bethany Solis, executive director of IDEA Public Schools for the Permian Basin, said at IDEA they believe an excellent education is the most powerful weapon in the war against inequities that “way too many of our local students and families face.”

IDEA has opened a campus in Midland and is opening another in Odessa in August.

Having a front-row seat to IDEA’s success in South Texas, which previously was the lowest performing region in the state, Solis saw them go through a process of unifications of organizations, ISDs and charters coming together in powerful ways.

“And over the course of about a decade, they became the highest performing region in the state of Texas, so I know it can be done. I’ve seen it. And I know that our West Texas grit and sense of adventure and creativity (will) see us through any of the unique challenges that we face, that other regions do not, will allow us to be the next proof point that our children can shine and become number one in the state of Texas,” Solis said.

Permian Strategic Partnership President/CEO Tracee Bentley expressed appreciation for being included in Tuesday’s announcement.

Permian Strategic Partnership is a collaboration between local communities and oil and gas companies operating in the Permian Basin, its website said.

“We feel so passionate about this unification … and know that this will help build capacity for improved education outcomes across the entire Permian Basin and not just in individual communities,” Bentley said. “… We think that the combined power of education and the Education Partnership will lead to great outcomes for this region for generations to come. Our students are our future, as we all know, so focusing on improving educational outcomes not only addresses the PSP’s educational priorities in the education space, but also … its workforce development as we seek to grow and retain a quality workforce.”

“Fostering education excellence is a top priority for the Permian Strategic Partnership and we are committed to supporting education and workforce efforts that will be addressed by this expanded partnership,” she added.

Collin Sewell, president of The Sewell Family of Companies, said when David Ross Boyd, the first president of the University of Oklahoma, stepped off the train in a treeless spot where the university would be located his first two words were “what possibilities.”

He urged those in attendance to abide by those words, but also consider the responsibilities.

One day, Jim Nelson, a former Texas education commissioner and former interim ECISD superintendent, told Sewell and Perryman in Sewell’s office that parents are sending them “the best kids they’ve got.”

“The danger in education is often to say that it’s somehow the kids’ fault. But I think we all know that if the grownups would get it right, kids would have a much better opportunity,” Sewell said.

“… And so while I agree 100 percent with Lorraine’s statement that we are unifying today and we’re here to support education in the Permian Basin, we also are going to hold each of you and ourselves accountable and responsible for doing a lot better job than we’ve been doing because there are hundreds of thousands of young men and women who are counting on us as grownups to get it right. Because us getting it right determines the possibilities they have for their own adult, grownup life,” Sewell added.