• August 9, 2020

Protesters demand trustee’s resignation - Odessa American: News

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Protesters demand trustee’s resignation

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Posted: Tuesday, June 9, 2020 10:18 pm

Although he wasn’t in attendance at the Ector County ISD board of trustees workshop, Doyle Woodall was the subject of a protest and comments during the meeting Tuesday.

Woodall has been under fire recently for Facebook posts that some consider offensive. He said earlier Tuesday that he couldn’t attend the board meeting because his mother just got out of the hospital and he had to stay with her.

Trustee Tammy Hawkins did not attend due to the death of her father.

Because he wasn’t there, some protesters and speakers who didn’t comment Tuesday will be back for the June 16 meeting.

The postings included a noose with the words “If we want to make America great again we will have to make evil people fear punishment again;” Nazi offer with “It’s not murder, Jews aren’t actually people;” and another photo next to it of a pregnant woman with “It’s not murder; babies aren’t actually people” next to it.

Another shows a large groups of Muslims in prayer and says “Spill a few gallons of bacon grease on that street and it would clear out fast,” followed by three American flags.

The comment below says, “This is not Saudi Arabia … This is “Sweet Home” Birmingham, Alabama! Nervous yet?”

Protesters brought signs with the messages blown up and stood outside the administration building saying what was on their signs and then, “Our kids deserve more.”

Mackenzie Campos, an incoming junior at George H.W. Bush New Tech Odessa, said an old cheer coach of hers noticed she was vocal about Black Lives Matter and asked if she wanted to attend the protest Tuesday with her mother.

“… It honestly does make me sick seeing the islamophobia or racism postings as a school board member because … when I go to school, I don’t want to see racism and stuff from people who are supposed to have a good influence on it. As someone who doesn’t experience that, I’m very lucky,” Campos said.

But putting herself in the shoes of someone who was that race or religion, made her feel bad.

“I feel bad for everyone who looks at these posts … I want him out,” Campos said.

In his opening remarks, Superintendent Scott Muri talked about the images of protests related to the death of George Floyd in Minnesota at the hands of police.

“For the last two weeks,” Muri said, “we have seen images from across the country of protests born out of anger, frustration, and resentment. Our communities of color — particularly the Black community — find themselves in a daily battle against institutional racism, economic discrepancies and educational disparity. The death of George Floyd, caught in video for the world to see, was pure disregard for a man’s life, and we share in the outrage being expressed all across our country. The fact that it was just the most recent example of brutality towards a Black man for no other reason than racial prejudice, only intensifies our anger. We believe Black lives matter.”

“We have audience members here tonight in the board room, others that are watching from different areas of the administration building and many more in front of our building tonight peacefully protesting hurtful, insulting Facebook posts made by a member of our very own board. There is no place for discrimination in our schools. I’ll say that again: There is no place for discrimination in ECISD,” Muri said.

In January, Muri said the board got a report that showed a disproportionate percentage of alternative school punishments are African American students. “While making up 4 percent of our student population, our African American students represent 48 percent of out-of-school suspensions," Muri said.

In STAAR test math performance, white students pass at a rate of 71 percent; Hispanic students 67 percent; and Black students 54 percent.

In writing performance, Muri said, it is 60 percent for whites; 51 percent for Hispanics; and 38 percent for African American students.

In science the percentages are 79 percent for white students; 67 percent for Hispanic students; and 56 percent for Black students.

“Our new budget allocates more money and more teachers to the schools with the greatest needs. That is budgeting and staffing for equity and it is the right thing to do for the students of ECISD,” Muri said.

“Our new strategic plan is founded in the principle of providing equity for our kids and ensuring that every student receives the support and encouragement and resources that they need to be successful in whatever academic pursuits they may choose,” he added.

A task force was established after reviewing the discipline report in January and they will report to trustees in July, he said.

During the public comment part of the meeting, seven residents spoke to trustees:

>> Michael Smith spoke of his outrage with recent events in our nation and he called for Woodall’s resignation from the school board.

>> Javier Ruiz, president of the local Texas State Teachers Association/National Education Association, spoke to the board about the proposed budget, and his appreciation for the raises being presented for the 2020-21 school year.

>> Chuck Isner, who has been an educator, told school board members he understands that there is no means for the board to remove Woodall but he hoped that, if Woodall remains on the board, he would use is position to promote inclusion.

>> Armida Tarin asked trustees when preparing to start school in the time of COVID-19 to consider the situation facing students in portables without immediate access to a bathroom or sinks.

>> Michaela Anang told of her experiences first as a middle school student at Bowie Middle School, then as an employee at Bowie, and she implored district officials to take serious care in the allocation of budget dollars in order to improve the treatment of all students the board recap said.

>> Esteban Hernandez spoke of his, and many others’, deep hurt at the offensive Facebook posts made by a school board member. He told each school board member he wanted to see them publicly call for Woodall’s resignation, the recap said.

>> Miah Nelson asked district leaders to take COVID seriously, provide physical, mental, and emotional health support for all students. She also asked leaders to put together a solid, detailed back-to-school plan with contingencies for things that are certain to go wrong, the recap said.

The Ector County chapter of the Texas State Teachers Association and NEA issued a statement earlier this week asking for Woodall’s resignation.

Ruiz said he talked to his board and to the home office in Austin. The board came to consensus and gave direction, “so we didn’t talk to our members.”

Ruiz said most of the membership that he has talked to are in agreement that Woodall should resign. But he said there are a few people who support Woodall.

“And it’s their right to. But if they feel that way, it’s like I said earlier, maybe they shouldn’t be in the classroom as well because if they’re supporting those thoughts …,” Ruiz said.

The Rev. Karin Carlson, pastor of Mackey Chapel United Methodist Church and associate pastor at First United Methodist Church, said every action taken is a witness for the generations to follow.

“I’ve heard accountability a lot this past week in Odessa. And so I really feel like tonight was a night to present our voices and our stance for accountability and how that accountability looks for our community to grow and for the kids and the parents … to have a stance and a model in order to be strong,” Carlson said.

She added that there was a grace and purpose to the protest outside the administration building.

The board also discussed the 2020-21 budget, tax rates and property values.

The 2019-20 budgeted revenues totaled just more than $299 million but are now projected to be a little more than $301 million, the recap said.

Expenditures for this year are projected to be some $22 million lower than originally budgeted mostly due to positions that were budgeted but remained vacant all year. This allowed the district to rebuild its fund balance to about four months of expenses, which is higher than the state’s guidelines of three months.

Using current financial projections and a reduced estimate of 500 new students for next year, district officials are building a budget for revenues of $307,129,000 — if ECISD receives all funding it is supposed to get.

District leaders will focus the additional dollars on board priorities like compensation — a cost of living increase for all employees and equity adjustments for hourly employees and others; additional money for schools with higher numbers of special education, economically disadvantaged, and English as a Second Language students; investing in pipelines that grow its own leaders; more counselors and more support for counselors; safety and security increases; updating technology so that every student has a digital tool; and facilities improvements like roofs and air conditioners.

Officials said they would build a balanced budget from these projections with the ability to adapt as the financial situation changes, the recap said.

At the 6 p.m. June 16 meeting, the district will host a public hearing on the budget and the proposed tax rate.

A school district’s tax rate is broken down into maintenance and operations, which provides the funding for day-to-day operations; and interest and sinking, also called debt service, which provides funding for bond payments.

The proposed rate for the coming school year is $1.0547 for maintenance and operations, $0.12322 for interest and sinking. The total tax rate would be $1.17792, which is the same as the current tax rate.

Trustees also received an overview of the compensation plan. Some of the highlights are:

>> Employees will receive a 2 percent of midpoint cost of living adjustment plus equity adjustments where applicable to bring employees to 90 percent of market pay.

>> Teachers librarians, and nurses (RN) will receive a $1,200 cost of living adjustment. The starting salary will be adjusted to $54,250, up $2,250 from the 2019-20 salary schedule.

>> Teachers at Steps 1-12 will receive additional adjustments to create equity with the starting pay for Step Zero. Adjustments for this group of employees constitutes approximately 51 percent of all salary adjustments, the recap said.

>> The board asked the administration to prioritize additional adjustments to hourly employees. Employees on these salary schedules will receive an adjustment above the 2 percent (ranging from 4 percent to 5 percent to the starting pay), the recap said.

>> Starting salaries will increase and adjustments will be made to current employees based on that adjustment. Adjustments for this group of employees constitutes approximately 32 percent of all salary adjustments.

>> In additional to salary and the salary adjustments, employees receive an additional $4,560 per year in medical insurance benefits. There will be no increases to insurance premiums, the recap said.

The board named new officers who will take their positions next week. The president is now Delma Abalos; Vice President is Tammy Hawkins; and Steve Brown is the board secretary.

Donna Smith was the president; vice president was Abalos; and Hawkins was the secretary previously.

Trustees also approved a recommendation from Muri to hire Ashley Osborne as executive director for talent development; Josette Dobbins as director of purchasing; and Mareka Austin as Bonham Middle School principal.

Austin had been a middle school principal at Castleberry ISD. She also worked at Arlington ISD, Public Information Officer Mike Adkins said.

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