Trustees vote to purchase property

ECISD trustees voted unanimously Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2023, to call a November bond issue. (Courtesy Photo)

Following an executive session, the Ector County ISD Board of Trustees Tuesday voted to purchase 40 acres at South Tripp Avenue for the west side middle school proposed in the Nov. 7 bond issue.

The board also voted to purchase 169 acres at 9301 Andrews Highway for the purpose of future growth and expansion of Ector County ISD for $3.4 million. Chief Communications Officer Mike Adkins said that purchase is not related to the bond issue.

The 40 acres at South Tripp is $720,000 or $18,000 an acre, the board recap said. Superintendent Scott Muri said the property has a water line running out to it.

“We have already explored options for sewer and it will have sewer,” Muri said Wednesday.

The three proposition bond is for $436,109,000. People can vote for one, two or all of the propositions.

Since 2020, ECISD has made early payments of about $37.3 million dollars on existing bonds, and by prepayments and refinancing, saved taxpayers $26.9 million in future interest payments. Based upon the district’s existing tax base, the district will not need to increase the total tax rate of $1.014 to pay the $436,109,000 of bond projects, the district website says.

The previous total tax rate was $1.17 per $100 valuation.

Early voting runs Oct. 23-27, and Oct. 30-Nov. 3.

Along with the middle school, the bond includes a career and technical education center, technology, a new transition learning center, fine arts improvements, technology, safety and security, a new transportation facility and more.

The other two propositions are to do with Ratliff Stadium, a new indoor practice facility at Odessa High School and replacing the turf at the indoor practice facility at Permian High School.

As required by a 2019 law, the ballot language will say it is a tax increase.

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Members of the Grow Odessa Board and ECISD leadership at 2 p.m. Wednesday will announce the donation of land related to the upcoming ECISD bond election set for Nov. 7. Gus Ortega, past board chair of Grow Odessa, and Muri will discuss specifics.

The press conference will take place at the Odessa Chamber of Commerce, 700 N. Grant Ave., Suite 200.

On a separate item, trustees heard the annual review of the schools that are part of Senate Bill 1882 Partnerships with ECISD.

SB 1882 was signed by the Texas Legislature in 2017 and provides benefits for districts to contract with education partners to promote innovation and improve student outcomes. ECISD has three such partnerships currently, one with the STEM Academy at UTPB, one with the Odessa Family YMCA for prekindergarten, and one with Third Future Schools for Ector Middle School. According to the contracts, the partner schools are measured on three areas: academic excellence, organizational strength and financial health.

  • Muri said he would recommend the district take the school back as Third Future has turned the campus around.

Zach Craddock, Third Future superintendent, said Third Future is projecting they will finish the year strong. He reviewed testing, growth and financial data for the board.

He noted that it opens at 6:30 a.m., starts earlier in the year than ECISD and stays open later. It also doesn’t close for bad weather days.

“Your success is duly noted,” Muri said. “Thank you for investing in our kids.”

Two and a half years ago, ECISD partnered with Third Future as an in-district charter school. It was previously under the Ector Success Academy Network whose contract was not renewed by the Ector County ISD Board of Trustees in January 2021 because the campus did not meet its goals.

  • STEM Academy met goals for TEA accountability ratings, NWEA Achievement, STAAR achievement, College Career & Military Readiness, and financials. In just its second year with ECISD, the STEM Academy agreement is in place until 2025, the recap said.
  • Odessa Family Y met goals for academics and finances, and expanded this year with afternoon classes that opened up more spots for three-year-olds to attend. Muri said he will recommend to trustees that they renew the agreement with the YMCA.

The full presentation is available at item 5A of the agenda.

  • Trustees heard a presentation from the STEM team from the Curriculum & Instruction Department. The STEM team is helping teachers be successful with the formula: Attention to details, Intention with strategic planning, ease tension by reducing the stress of finding materials and resources, and Retention, or keeping teachers longer by providing this support. Math 3-8: Overall results are trending upward year-after-year; Algebra EOC scores are the highest scores and smallest gap with state in 5 years. There has been good response from teachers using the frameworks, which are set up to be one-stop-shops to help provide quality instruction. There are Cal Ripken Sr. STEM Labs at 31 campuses that came about through $1.2 million of donations/partnerships. This Saturday, the team will host a STEM Summit, a math and science best teaching practices event that coincides with the solar eclipse.
  • The board received information about changes to the district’s 2024 employee health insurance plan. For the first time since 2019, ECISD will implement increases in employees’ monthly contributions, copays and deductibles. ECISD is self-insured, meaning all costs not paid by an employee is paid by the school district.

ECISD’s medical plan continues to experience an increase in costs due to inflation for goods and services; large claims over $500,000; an increase in the number of prescriptions filled; and the cost of prescriptions both generic and specialty. The district will continue to pay $380 per month toward each employee’s premium costs.

All employees will be receiving detailed information from the Benefits Department and Director Yolanda Gordon. Open enrollment will start on October 23 and run through Nov. 17. ECISD is always seeking to provide a competitive benefits package for employees while keeping the insurance fund financially sound.

Also, starting Jan. 1, the health plan will offer unlimited mental health counseling and they are adding diabetic management/coaching at no cost to the employee.

Eric Smith, a benefits coordinator and independent contractor, said the idea is to encourage people to get healthier.

If they can get 20 percent of diabetics to do this and be compliant, it could mean $2 million in savings, Smith said.

Muri said about 40 percent of district employees are diabetic.

Muri noted that the district has found that larger claims are for spouses on the insurance plan; not employees or children, so that’s why the cost for spouses and employees is going up.