OPD taking lead on investigation into child’s death

Baby Ezekiel

The death of a 4-year-old student April 8 at Lamar Early Childhood Center has devastated the campus and shook up Ector County ISD Superintendent Scott Muri.

The death is being investigated by the Odessa Police Department in partnership with ECISD police and an autopsy was being done April 10 in Lubbock.

“I’ve been in education for 36 years as a teacher, administrator and central office employee and have never had a situation like this,” Muri said. “I’ve certainly had student deaths at the high school level. Sometimes it may involve a drinking and driving incident, or a tragic accident but to have someone this young it is devastating. We began really providing support the day the incident happened to the staff and the students at that school and that work will be ongoing.”

Muri said the teacher, nurse and assistant principal provided lifesaving measures to the child in the classroom.

“I can’t speak to anything really beyond that. I know paramedics arrived. They also administered lifesaving efforts and those continued throughout the journey to the hospital,” Muri said.

He noted that support will be provided to the campus as long as it is needed and a therapy dog was at school April 10.

“Trauma is one of those reactions that doesn’t just occur the day after an incident, or the next day. Sometimes trauma can affect us for days, months, (or) years to come and so we will continue to provide support for the folks at Lamar that need it … We have police officers on site as well and while they might not work full time at Lamar, they’re a part of the organization and they were traumatized in this experience. So yes, our guidance counselors were on site and they are again today. In fact, today (April 10) we have a therapy dog that is on site providing support to the adults and the students on the campus. Supports will continue for that faculty and all the adults and students involved as long as they need it,” Muri said.

He noted that the district is supporting the child’s family.

“The family has more of a presence in our district than just Lamar, and so supports will be made available to the other children and family members,” Muri said.

Asked about any preexisting medical conditions the student may have had, Muri said he couldn’t speak to that and was not sure of his medical history.

Muri was also asked how long nap time is for preschoolers as it was on social media that the incident occurred during nap time.

“Our 3- and 4-year-olds don’t quite have the energy to make it through a full day, so it’s (nap time) been a part of full-day preK programs for decades,” Muri said.

He added that anytime there is an incident, an injury to a student or anything involving a child, the district does an after-action report to see if there are situations they can improve.

“Did we provide the right level of care? Is there something about the environment of the situation? We typically do that after any incident that we have just to ensure the safety of all our students. We’ve already had conversations. Of course we still have a lot of unknowns in this case as well, but we want to feel confident that everything we do in a crisis is appropriate,” Muri said.

“We have crisis response plans in place. … Those are vetted. They’re approved by law enforcement agencies; medical agencies. In fact … the state of Texas now requires to have a variety of different types of safety plans in place, so anytime we have an incident like this we follow the plans and the guidance we have in place. I will have to commend the staff at Lamar, our police officers, our nurse, the medical team that we have. Everybody really did their role to perfection (Monday). We were just very pleased with the response, but the outcome was certainly horrific. We were all just devastated by what happened to that child, but are thankful that the people were in the right positions.

“The people acted the way they should have acted. They responded the ways that they should have responded and provided the very best of care to that child throughout the entire incident,” Muri said.

He noted that the district was in contact with the child’s parents immediately and the mother was on site immediately.

“We worked with that family really throughout the entire incident and continue to support them today,” Muri said.

How soon parents are contacted depends on the severity of an incident.

“If it’s a minor incident, many times we remedy the incident and then notify the parents that something has happened. If the incident is a bit more serious in nature and we need the parent present, then we call them immediately and ask them to come to school. It’s one reason we also have emergency contacts. If for some reason we’re unable to reach the parent, we go down that emergency contact list until we have a responsible adult on site that can help us make decisions and provide support to them to the very best of our ability,” he added.

In this case, they reached out to the parents immediately, he said.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help pay for funeral expenses at https://www.gofundme.com/f/pqd58-ezekiel

On a separate topic, Muri said Chief Technology Officer Kellie Wilks was named Chief Technology Officer of the Year at a national conference of chief technology officers in Florida Tuesday.

“She truly represents the best of ECISD,” Muri said.

Prekindergarten registration is now underway in ECISD.

“Moms and dads, if you have a 3- or 4-year-old running around your house and you are interested in enrolling them in preK next year, we would be excited to have them. We accept both 3-year-old students and 4-year-old students ,” Muri said.

Parents can learn more about that on the ECISD website, www.ectorcountyisd.org.

Muri said the top question they get is why they should enroll their child in prekindergarten.

“We’ve been doing preK for several years in ECISD and the best reason that we’ve found is because of their continued success. We have an incredible set of data that indicate that students that go through the ECISD preK experience outperform their peers in kindergarten, first grade, second grade. Then next year it will continue in third grade as we continue to monitor those kids as they transition into the upper grade levels. But we know that kids begin kindergarten at a much higher level because of their preK experience,” Muri said.

PreK has become so popular in ECISD that the district plans to open a preK center at Burleson Elementary in the 2025-26 school year.

Testing season has begun.

Muri said a good night’s sleep, a good breakfast and encouragement and motivation are key to kids doing well on the STAAR test.

“We provide breakfast for all students in ECISD, so parents just make sure your child is at school in time to eat breakfast, give them plenty of time to eat a healthy breakfast. Or you may certainly feed your child at home, make sure that they have a balanced and healthy breakfast at home. Whichever you choose, make sure that you make one of those selections. Our kids need to be well fed. The testing period lasts for a bit of time during the school day, so we want our kids to be well fed and well rested as they enter testing season,” Muri said.

The third thing that parents can do is a bit of encouragement and motivation, he added.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for our students to demonstrate all that they have learned during their school career … so motivating them encouraging them to just showcase their best and just take advantage of this opportunity to really show what they know.”

He said teachers and administrators have done a lot over the past week to make sure kids feel motivated and encouraged to do their best.

“Parents certainly you can help us by encouraging your child to do the same. Make sure that they get a good night’s sleep; make sure that they are well fed in the morning and then make sure that you leave them with some good words of encouragement as they begin the school day,” Muri said.