Teachers glad for raise from TRE

Teachers Rebecca Farrell and Leah Loftin say they were glad Ector County Independent School District’s tax ratification election passed in November 2017 because it gave them a little financial breathing room and allowed them to purchase items for their classrooms.
School district’s tax rates are made up of maintenance and operations and interest and sinking, or debt. With passage of the TRE, the maintenance and operations rate went to $1.279570 per $100 valuation. The debt rate remains the same about 11 cents per $100 valuation.
The proposition will generate $18 million, including $16.5 million in local revenue, plus $1.5 million in new funds from the state.
The funds are going for staff raises, roof replacements, bus replacements, secure access entrances and secure fencing at elementary wings. Following the passage, a Superintendent’s Budget Advisory Council was been formed to ensure that ECISD appropriated the funds from Proposition A correctly, according to material from Odessans for Education, the political action committee formed to back the TRE.
Farrell teaches fourth grade writing at Buddy West Elementary School and Loftin teaches kindergarten at Hays STEAM Academy.
This will be Farrell’s sixth year teaching at ECISD. She taught one year at Harmony Science Academy.
“At first I didn’t think it was going to pass, so when it passed I was super happy about it,” Farrell said. “I feel like as teachers we never feel appreciated, so it was nice to feel a little bit more appreciated.”
Morale-wise, Farrell said a lot of the teachers were “super excited.”
“They’ve been a little bit more upbeat since getting it because they know they’re getting a little bit more cash each month, which we tend to put back in our classroom, but it’s OK,” Farrell said.
Last week, Farrell said she bought a photographer’s changing tent so the students could do projects.
“Because it’s black, you need to be a dark environment to really see the effects of a blacklight. The kids are going to highlight their work in there. It makes it fun. They could highlight out here, but it’s not as fun for them as when they’re doing it and seeing it shine with a blacklight,” Farrell said.
Asked if the teacher raises will help recruit and retain instructors, Farrell said for the general area in town it will, but it’s more difficult to do that out west where her school is.
“I think it will help a little bit to make our income comparable to other places, but as far as out west it’s still a little bit harder. We get a travel stipend, as well, that the district has been giving us but it’s still harder for the schools out here to get teachers because we’re so far out of town,” she said. “But I think it will help as far as a lot of teachers being able to find housing. …”
Farrell said she was able to visit her family in New Jersey for Christmas break. She drove from Odessa with her three dogs, because she couldn’t fly with them.
She said she surprised her mother.
“I showed up on Saturday evening late and walked into her room. … I walked into her room with my box of the gifts that she was sending me. I said, ‘OK … mom I got them’ and she was just blown out of her mind. She slapped the box out of my hand and just grabbed me and hugged me tight,” Farrell said.
“… I was actually able to participate in Christmas and get my family members something. We took my nephew, who’s 3, to Jurassic Quest out there and I was able to get him a bunch of souvenirs from the gift shop. I spent over $100 on him on just dinosaurs. It was crazy, but it was worth it,” she added.
The paycheck that helped catch teachers up with the raise at the end of December helped Farrell cushion the trip so she felt more comfortable being there.
“I bought my mom her favorite video game. She’s an old-school Galactica fan and Walmart had those $300 arcades, so I had got her one of those. It was a nice little add on, for sure,” Farrell said.
She added that the increase will also help her pay off debt and be able to supply fun items for her students.
Loftin, who has also been with ECISD for six years, said she was thankful the community voted for the TRE.
“It’s going to help out a lot and a lot of our schools really need it, especially with the roofs in the hail storm and being a homeowner I had to go through and get a new roof,” Loftin said.
She said she can’t imagine how much it’s costing the district to get new roofs for its buildings.
“With the money I ended up getting, I put some in savings. I used a lot of it for my mortgage,” she said.
Being single and a homeowner Loftin said she was trying to save, but did end up splurging on a necklace she’d been eyeing for about three months.
“I kept on looking at it. There was a cheaper version. I didn’t like that. I just kept going back to it, so I didn’t feel so bad going and getting it,” Loftin said.
The raise will also give her some leeway to spend funds on her classroom, she added.
“Our school is really great. We’re provided with a lot, but sometimes it’s little things,” Loftin said.
She said she goes through a lot of Expo markers because she lets her students write on the table.
“It erases, but they think it’s so cool. They think I’m crazy, I go through a lot of Expo markers, but I end up going crazy on the Clorox wipes. I know, it sounds like a teacher. I don’t feel bad. I go and get like five or six. … I try to stretch it out for two weeks because since we do a lot of stuff on the table, but the germs,” Loftin said.
“I have really great parents that if I need stuff, they do not mind helping out. But also when I get a new student and they come in and they don’t have anything,” she doesn’t feel bad going to buy them a box of crayons.
She also likes to buy students Christmas presents.
Loftin said the raises, which bring starting salaries for teachers up to $50,000, should help attract them.
“It shows that the community supports us. It shows that if we do need to have another election to get other things that they can depend on our community. We have a really good community,” Loftin said.
She added that morale among teachers has been good.
“I feel like a lot of teachers feel appreciated. I also know that they’re not feeling as stressed,” Loftin said.
Teachers are paid once a month, usually at the end of the month.
“You really have to make it stretch,” Loftin said.