The importance of effective campus leaders, the ever-present need for teachers and ongoing efforts to figure out what schools of choice families want are just some of the issues Ector County ISD Superintendent Scott Muri and his team are working on.
This is the time of year that principal, administrative and teacher moves and retirements tend to be made. For example, Kamye Smith was the principal at Pease Elementary School and is now campus chief at Blanton Elementary.
Micah Arrott, who was the assistant principal at Pease, is now the acting principal of the school.
Muri said the No. 1 factor that influences student success is the teacher and second is the principal.
“… School will not be great unless it is led by a great leader, so our opportunity is to continue to work with our school leadership to make sure we have the very best people in each of the schools. At ECISD, there will always be principal transition. We have 43 schools, and principals sometimes … have opportunities that come their way,” Muri said.
“There may be a promotion opportunity and so that creates a vacancy. We have retirements … That creates vacancies,” he added.
Sometimes a principal isn’t a good fit for a campus.
“… Principal turnover will continue in our system. It’s just a natural part of the process,” Muri said.
With principal vacancies, the district goes through a hiring process.
“We develop a principal profile. We talked with students, parents, teachers and community members about the type of candidate they would like to have at their school. We use that profile to review resumes. We post the position and we take those resumes and match them to the profile. From there, we create a list of candidates we’re going to interview. We select a group of people, again, parents, community members, staff members, district level personnel, to create the interview committee for principal. The selected candidates go through the interview process and then they’ll develop two or three finalists, if you will. … I do that final interview and make that final selection. I take that candidate to the Board of Trustees and they get final approval for principal, so it’s a pretty grueling process to become a principal …,” he said.
Muri noted that this procedure started in the last year and a half.
“When I came in … we brought our principal supervisors aboard (and) worked with them to develop this principal process. … The executive director that’s responsible for a school will facilitate that principal hiring process,” he added.
Along with administrators, Muri is anticipating that there will be teacher openings. He acknowledges that being a teacher is stressful and layering a pandemic on top of that creates even more stress.
“… We all anticipate that the profession may suffer a hit because of the current environment. And in our situation, we benefited from the pandemic from the perspective of the gas and oil industry (releasing) employees. We had some teachers that left that environment and came into the profession. And as that market cycles back up, we may lose some folks back to the gas and oil industry so that can create some challenges for us,” Muri said.
“In addition, last year the commissioner, because of the pandemic, issued a waiver for one year for teachers that were not certified but in the process of becoming certified. So for one year they could teach, but within this school year, they had to complete their process so any of our any teachers that had not finished the certification process that waiver will expire at the end of this year,” he added.
“We know we have some people that did not complete the necessary requirements to continue their certification so we’ll see that,” Muri said.
There also are people moving out and new people moving in. “… ECSD is doing a lot to build our teachers — the Teacher Incentive Allotment, an opportunity for teachers to earn up to $25,000 more a year; providing National Board Certification; the Permian Strategic Partnership has funded that body of work for us. All of these, the Opportunity Culture, so providing opportunities for teachers to spread their wings a little bit and be teachers and leaders. All of the things that we’re doing to build our own teachers is attracting people from other places,” Muri said.
Foe example, Burnett and Bowie are in the RISE program. Which will start in the fall. RISE stands for Rapidly Improving School Effectiveness. It is based on Dallas ISD’s Accelerating School Excellence (ACE) initiative.
“We marketed that and we’ve been inundated with applications — teachers from all over the country not just Texas. … Specifically, we have multiple National Board Certified teachers who want to move here because we support that process, not only through building teachers to become board certified but also financially. Those teachers will be compensated and that type of thing is attracting teachers to our area. We’re excited about investing in the teachers we have, but it also is proving to be a great tool to recruit,” Muri added.
The district also uses four grow your own teacher programs to attract local talent.
“One of those grow your own programs looks at our high school students who are interested in entering the profession, shepherding them through. Odessa College and UTPB got together to identify high school graduates” that could graduate in three years, he said.
The district also helps paraprofessionals who want to become teachers achieve that goal.
“We’ll hire between four and 600 teachers a year,” Muri said.
UTPB doesn’t graduate that many, so the district looks internationally as well.
Part of ECISD’s strategic plan is to look at choice.
“We as a system, we believe that parents and kids should have a choice in the type of learning experiences that they want — kids for themselves and the parents for their children. ECISD has multiple magnets dotted around our system. Some of those magnets are very popular and have waiting lists to get in. Other magnets aren’t as popular, and perhaps they’ve worn themselves out, if you will. Our opportunity might be to change some of the magnet themes to more appropriately serve what parents currently want. … We’re evaluating every magnet program. (For) every choice option in ECISD, we will determine if it’s still popular or effective. And for those that are successful, we’ll continue those. Those that are not, it may be time to revisit the magnet theme and either change the theme or make some adjustments based upon what that particular community wants. That’s the process we’re going through and we are just in the early stages of designing a rubric that we’ll use to help us to help guide those decisions with the ultimate goal being to create magnets and choices in ECSD that are appealing to all of our families and all of our kids,” Muri said.