Teacher shortage looms for ECISD

Although he would like to see the number at zero, Ector County ISD Superintendent Scott Muri said the district currently has 340 teacher openings.

In his media call Wednesday, Muri said it is normal to have vacancies this time of year, but there is a teacher shortage state and nationwide.

“… We continue to hire throughout the summer. … Our human resources department is working hard to recruit; our principals are working hard to recruit. We have lots of folks out and about trying to bring educators to our schools, but we’re in the middle of a teacher shortage and that is alive and present in our own community,” Muri said.

He added that there are a variety of causes. One is the stress of the job.

Scott Muri

“It has changed significantly over time,” Muri said. “Even when I was a classroom teacher, our teachers today have much more pressure on them to perform, if you will, than I remember as a teacher during my eight years in the classroom.”

“There are societal pressures. The level of respect that society has for teachers has waned over time and I know that has an impact. Compensation: Our educators are college graduates. Many have master’s or doctoral degrees and they’re able to enter different professions and make more money with less stress, so there are a variety of factors that have contributed to the loss of teachers,” Muri added.

Ultimately, he said, there are not as many people entering the profession.

“If you look at our colleges of education, they are simply not turning out as many teachers as they used to turn out. Our opportunity as a district is to make sure that we hold on to our very best teachers, that we grow and develop them while we have them; that we create a culture that is exciting and engaging for teachers that really keeps them in the profession. There is much to do.”

“The final cause that I would lift up is our new generation. When I entered the profession as an educator, it was my career. I wanted to be an educator for 30 years. But today in 2021, many of our young people entering a profession, they’re not thinking about being in that profession for life. Many of our kids after five years move on to a different profession and we see that in ECISD. Our young teachers come in, they spend five years with us and they move on to another profession. That is a new reality that I don’t think we in public education have really adjusted ourselves to — the reality that people are changing careers on a more frequent basis than they used to.”

Some of the “big bets” the district plans for its federal COVID funding are to address unfinished student learning, providing social-emotional learning for students and adults and professional development for teachers.

“ECISD has been busy looking at our data to fully understand the impact of the pandemic on our students and our staff members, as well as our community. We are busy working right now on developing really a series of ‘big bets,’ we’re calling them. One of the best investments that we can make to provide for the unfinished learning of our students is to make sure that we’re taking care of their mental health.”

Another “big bet” is tutoring for students, which will be one-on-one.

“We know that locally we do not have enough adults that are trained to provide tutoring services for our students. We’ll be exploring a variety of different companies around the country that provide virtual tutoring for our students,” Muri said. “We’ll be embedding that before school, during school and after school in a host of elementary, middle and high schools next year in ECISD.”

He noted that the district will use outcome-based contracting.

“The tutoring companies, the tutors if you will, will be paid based upon the growth of children over time and so if kids are not learning, then there is no payment. …,” Muri said.

Teachers are likely to receive a group of students next year unlike any they’ve ever received, so the district is looking to develop its teachers to make sure they are well prepared.

“We’ll be spending a lot of those dollars on investments that we make in our educators to help them hone their craft (and) become better at what they do so we can more effectively accelerate the learning of our students next year,” Muri said.

Additionally, he said, ECISD recognizes that the pandemic has affected the children, their families and its own staff members so significant investments will be made in the social-emotional well-being of students and staff.

“… The pandemic has created trauma in the lives of many of our children and staff members and we want to ensure that we have the right type of supports in place to help our children, our families and our educators go through this situation and come out the other side very successfully,” Muri said.

He added that he is appreciative of the federal government for these dollars. Muri said the district is creating “some pretty exciting plans to invest those dollars to make sure that our students and our educators and families can survive and thrive after this pandemic situation.”

On the graduation front, Muri said more than 1,700 high school graduates were part of the Class of 2021.

“Our students have earned, thus far, over $7 million in scholarship money and grants. (We’re) really proud of the work our kids have done, especially in this pandemic, to pull in that kind of money to support their postsecondary dreams and aspirations. We know that because of the delay in college acceptance this year many of our students will continue to receive acceptances, as well as scholarship opportunities, throughout the summer,” Muri said. “But we are really pleased with the over 1,700 graduates that we’ve had and congratulate each of them on a job well done, especially in the midst of this pandemic. Our kids have certainly overcome a lot of hurdles.”

With the end of the school year comes enrichment in the form of “summer camp.”

“Starting on Monday, we will welcome … almost 7,000 students in our summer learning program in ECISD — the most we’ve had ever in our history; in fact, almost four times the number of students we see in our summer learning programming.”

Many of those students are at the elementary level.

“We have extended the elementary school year and our families and students are taking full advantage of that opportunity,” Muri said.

He added that information about summer programming can be found on the district website.

“We have opportunities for elementary, middle and high school students. It’s all about acceleration. We’ve created a summer camp-type experience for our kids, unlike what that traditional school may be like. We really encourage our kids this summer to come and have that summer camp experience … Our teachers are busy this week already preparing for the arrival of those students,” he added.