Longtime ECISD School Board member Carol Gregg got interested in children’s welfare as an assistant county attorney handling child abuse cases and later as a county court-at-law judge dealing with the same issues.
Having retired at the end of 2020 as a municipal court judge, Gregg says the Odessa school district has a lot on its plate with wanting to meet state standards and give its roughly 33,000 students what they need and she is as determined as ever to do as much as she can.
“Being on the school board was a natural extension of my work in the county attorney’s office and as a court-at-law judge,” Gregg said. “It gives me an opportunity to make things better and more equitable and fair for all children. I strive to see that they get the best education possible, but there are a lot of challenges.
“Handling abused and neglected children’s cases opened my eyes to how many were going into the criminal justice system. That’s why I started Teen Court and the CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocates) program. It seems wrong that so many children in our country and our city, where we have so much abundance, are living in dreadful conditions and going to bed at night without enough to eat.”
The year of COVID of course made education harder than ever and Gregg said the “constant barrage of requirements from the state” and the lure of oilfield wages keep the board in a quandary.
“Another problem is the struggle to find teachers because when the economy is busy. People can do much better in other jobs,” she said. “All children don’t learn in the same way, so we have to offer different options and different educational tools. Some require different skill sets and tools to master skills.”
Born Carol Sparks in Pauls Valley, Okla., Gregg grew up attending Cameron Elementary, Crockett Junior High and Odessa High School, where she graduated in 1967. She studied at Odessa College for two years and earned a bachelor’s degree in political science at Texas Tech and a law degree there. She has three children and four grandchildren. Her father Raymond worked in construction, building gas plants, and her mom, the former Patricia Dannenfelser, was a cashier. She has a brother.
“I was the first person in my family to go to college,” she said. “From a very young age, I wanted to be a lawyer, I think because my dad would have liked to be one if he had had the opportunity. I was on the debate teams in high school, college and law school.
“I’ve always liked to see both sides of an issue and try to convince people toward my side.”
With a new law degree, Gregg was an assistant city attorney for a year, worked as an assistant county attorney for six years and was the Ector County Court-at-Law No. 1 judge for eight. Then she was in private practice for 13 years, handling family law and bankruptcies, and was a municipal, or city, judge for 13 years, adjudicating traffic tickets and Class C misdemeanors and signing search warrants. She was on the school board, representing Position 1, from 1998-2010 and she has served there since 2014.
Position 1 encompasses the area from Business I-20 on the north to U.S. 385 on the west and the Ector County line on the south and east.
“Municipal judge is an interesting position,” said Gregg, 70. “There are varied responsibilities and the opportunity to work with a lot of different people. I felt like it was worthwhile and it was not as stressful as private practice. Family law left you lying awake at night worrying about things.”
Gregg said school boards everywhere are dealing with the change in times. “With the World War II generation, there was a time in this country when you could make a good living in energy or manufacturing with nothing more than a high school education or even without one,” she said.
“Nowadays, there are not many well-paying positions if you don’t have college or technical training. My major goal is to get our students performing at least to the state averages because we have some failing schools that are far below average. There is not an easy answer.”
School Board President Delma Abalos said Gregg “is one of the most honest and straightforward people I have ever met.”
Referring to her late husband Richard, a prominent defense lawyer, Abalos said, “Richard always said Carol knew the law and applied it very fairly.
“I don’t think it gets better than a compliment like that from an attorney. She has given so much to our community, serving on boards that address the needs of children. She makes sure they are taken care of, not just their health but their mental and physical well-being.”
As a school board member, Abalos said, Gregg “is always well-versed.
“Carol doesn’t feel like she has to go along with what the superintendent says. Her vote is always for what’s best for our children and staff.”