More buy-in from teachers and the community and building up trust are important ingredients for helping a new Ector County Independent School District bond to pass, members of a new bond advisory committee said.
Reasons why the November 2017 bond issue failed, ground rules for the bond advisory committee and what’s changed since made up some of the discussion at the gathering, held in the cafeteria of George H.W. Bush New Tech Odessa.
TransCend4, the firm hired by ECISD to guide the committee through the process, facilitated the meeting attended by about 72 people. One-hundred were invited. The committee includes some of the same people as the last one with some new additions.
The bond is now proposed for May 2019, giving the committee more time to go over the information and make decisions. Superintendent Tom Crowe said a bond and tax ratification election will be held separately with the TRE coming first, probably in the fall.
“We’re starting from scratch,” Crowe said. “… We are making this a community conversation.”
For years, Board President Carol Gregg said the student population stayed the same and now it’s increasing and continues to grow with more than 32,000 students.
Lorraine Perryman, a new committee member, said some people at her table thought nothing had changed, but some who were more optimistic said the district was humbled and ready to do things differently.
Maybe with the boom, she said, people would see the urgency for more facilities.
Michelle Hughes of TransCend4, said districts usually determine needs based on demographics, where the growth is and a long-range facilities plan that shows when a roof is going to fail, for example.
Conrad Turner, who was on the last bond advisory committee, said work on the 2012 bond was completed in February and six months later people were voting on another one.
Ector Middle School, Noel and Pease elementary schools in their fifth year of improvement required status under state accountability standards. If the campuses don’t come off the list, they will face closure or the Texas Education Commissioner will appoint a board of managers over the whole district.
Turner noted this and asked if this bond fails, “do we deserve better leadership?”
Perryman, who has been a fan and critic of ECISD, said with the new boom and severely overcrowded schools that more facilities are desperately needed.
“… But we need to build trust and faith in our school district to positively respond at the ballot box for what those real needs are,” Perryman said. “… I want us to stay child centered as we approach this, that everything we do is focused on the children and the community and meeting their needs. As long as we stay focused on the kids, then I think we’ll go in the right direction and that will remove a lot of the peripheral debate.”
Interim Odessa City Manager Michael Marrero was not part of the original process.
“But tonight’s process is very promising because it really is well structured. The hope is that we get all the information that we need (so) we can then make a good recommendation to the school board,” Marrero said.
Marrero added that it’s good to get a sense of what individuals think in terms of what they perceive to be the problems with the initial bond and look at those. People may differ on why it worked or didn’t work.
“I think everybody’s input is valuable and shouldn’t be discounted,” Marrero said.
So each one should be considered and analyzed as the process moves forward.
Crowe said he liked that more people were involved in the bond committee this time and that some of the old members were back and that there were new people with fresh eyes.
“I’m liking where we’re heading and Michelle’s got a lot of experience and a mature approach, so I’m anxious to see her working with everybody,” Crowe added.
- In November 2017, a $291,172,291 bond and a tax ratification election failed.
- Some 7,186 people voted in the election. The bond failed with 61.81 percent, or 4,442 people, voting against it and 38.19 percent, or 2,744 people voting for it. The 2017 bond included a new comprehensive high school; conversion of Ector Middle School to a high school; a new middle school to replace Ector; a district wide fiber network; lifecycle improvements; fire and safety upgrades; secure front entries at each campus; Permian High School locker room renovation; Odessa High School weight room upgrades and expansion; and renovation of restrooms at Ratliff Stadium.
- A tax ratification election also was voted on in November 2017 with a total of 7,182 votes. Close to 40 percent, or 2870 people, voted for the tax ratification election and just over 60 percent, or 4,312 people, voted against it.