Muri: Bond passage a positive for generations

Ector County Independent School District teacher and political consultant Arlo Chavira, far left, ECISD Superintendent Scott Muri, second from right, and ECISD School Board Trustee Tammy Hawkins, far right, watch as final results in a school bond election are published Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023, in Odessa. (Courtesy of Eli Hartman/The Texas Tribune)

Following passage of the largest portion of the Ector County ISD bond Tuesday night, Superintendent Scott Muri said it was a big win for the district’s 33,500 students.

Muri expressed gratitude to the community and everyone involved in the passage of the bond. But he was also glad to see nearly 10,000 people went to the polls and made their voices heard one way or the other.

The total bond package, which included three propositions, was for $436,109,000 and does not affect the tax rate.

During his media call Wednesday, Muri said Proposition A, which is approximately $424 million passed with 56.83 percent, or 5,557 for, to 43.17 percent or 4,222 against.

“It brings a lot of opportunity to our students from pre-K all the way through 12th grade. Not only students today but students for generations will be positively affected by this bond package. We’ll see such things as a new middle school located on South Tripp Avenue in west Ector County; a new career and technical educational facility located in southeast Odessa that will provide career and technical education programming for around 2,400 students in ECISD,” Muri said.

He added that they are excited about the programming that will be developed there.

“We’re doing that in partnership with Odessa College and with significant contribution by the Permian Strategic Partnership,” Muri said.

In addition, Prop A includes a new transportation facility, the purchase of many buses that will replace some of the aging buses in ECISD and investment in special education students.

“The new Transition Learning Center, which targets our students that are in special education from 18 to 21 years old, will help them transition from school into the world of work; very excited about that opportunity for those students,” Muri said.

Investments in fine and performing arts are also included in Prop A. That means new instruments; uniforms; choral risers at the middle school level and many more.

The complete renovation of the Permian High School auditorium is in it.

Also, lighting for fields at PHS and OHS that will allow students to play into the evening.

“No longer do they need to miss class during the school day to participate in athletics,” Muri said. “They can now enjoy that experience in the evenings and moms and dads are now able to enjoy their children.”

Investments in JROTC at OHS and PHS is included.

“We have very active programs in those places. They’ll have the equipment they need, the tools, the resources to have high-quality JROTC programming for those students,” Muri said.

Middle school bleachers will be replaced, which is a safety component.

“Speaking of safety, there are quite a few safety enhancements located in the bond package. Most of them deal with technology. We’ll be replacing all of the digital cameras. All of our schools are monitored by security cameras, so we will be replacing each of those and upgrading that system; upgrading our telephone system; upgrading intercom systems; fire alarm systems throughout the organization; and then a whole lot of … deferred maintenance will be completed in many of our schools,” Muri said.

“In fact, each school in ECISD is going to be touched as part of the deferred maintenance program; things such as replacing entire electrical systems, plumbing systems, HVAC systems. A lot of the systems that allow our buildings to operate effectively and efficiently will be replaced,” he added.

Half of ECISD schools are 61 years of age or older.

“They’re in need of some significant replacement, so once again, Proposition A passed; a $424 million bond package and our kids will win at every level because of that investment. We are incredibly grateful to a variety of folks because of the passage of the bond,” Muri said.

As to what will be tackled first, Muri said there are some emergency maintenance items that move to the top of the list and then there are the expensive items like the new middle school and CTE facility.

He said they will move on the new construction quickly because the longer you wait, the more expensive it gets.

“We budgeted $120 million for the construction of a new middle school. That includes the purchase of property; that includes construction of the school itself; and then the furniture; fixtures and equipment that goes in there. If we wait a few years that $120 million will not be enough, so we need to start that pretty quickly,” Muri said.

He added that ECISD will probably publish a five-year project timeline.

Once the new career and technical education center opens, Muri said they will add middle school students to New Tech Odessa and it will become a sixth through 13th grade campus.

“Our plan right now is to implement that at the same time CTE moves out. We’re a few years away from that program coming into existence, but our (district) and the team at NTO will begin the process of designing and developing the programming piece. Once CTE is completely out, we’ll do some renovation work and then add those between 400 and 500 middle students to the program at NTO,” Muri said.

Permian Strategic Partnership hasn’t said how much they will invest in the CTE center. Before the bond election, PSP said they would invest in the center.

“We’re getting close. Once we finalize the details, PSP will release that information publicly,” Muri said.

Asked why he thought Proposition B and C failed, Muri said he wasn’t sure why. The propositions had to do with Ratliff Stadium maintenance and a new indoor practice facility for OHS and new turf for PHS’ indoor practice facility.

“I think at the end of the day, we need to do a better job of educating and informing our community about the benefits of Proposition B and C. They are not going away,” Muri said. “Those are needs that we have organizationally, so our opportunity right now is to figure out how to bring both of those propositions back to the voters. They are needed and the longer we delay, especially the Ratliff Stadium fixes, the more at risk we become of losing that stadium. We can’t lose that stadium. We have to maintain it and when you have a structure of that size, really any physical structure, maintenance is a critical piece. This bond, Proposition B, contained the maintenance for that stadium, and so we’re going to need to go back out to the voters pretty quickly to make sure that we recover those funds.”

There will be a bond oversight committee to make sure the money is spent the way it was intended.

“Next Tuesday (Nov. 14), you’ll hear me have a quick conversation with our trustees about the concept of a bond oversight committee. I’ll be asking the trustees to submit names to me and then we’ll work on those names. But the committee itself will be appointed by the board. During the month of December, the board will vote on the members of that committee and we’ll name those individuals. Our goal is to actually meet with them for the first time in January, so we’ll be pretty quick to get that committee underway,” Muri said.