• August 13, 2020

Ector cuts work in progress - Odessa American: ECISD

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Ector cuts work in progress

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Posted: Friday, July 3, 2020 12:13 pm

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, predictions of lower enrollment and data, Ector College Prep Success Academy CEO/Superintendent Robert Bleisch said some adjustments had to be made.

Ector College Prep, formerly called Ector Middle School, partnered with CEO/Superintendent Robert Bleisch’s Ector Success Academy Network as a way to stay sanctions from the Texas Education Agency for two years.

Senate Bill 1882, signed into effect by the Texas Legislature in 2017, provides incentives for districts to contract to partner with an open-enrollment charter school, institutions of higher education, non-profits, or government entities, the Texas Education Agency website says.

Some of those adjustments are still works in progress, but Bleisch said the campus had been overstaffed with administrators. There were seven and now there are five.

Assistant Principal Reagan Paquette has taken an assistant principal post at San Jacinto Junior High School in Midland and Bleisch said Principal Charles Quintela has resigned.

He said Mitch Gerig, who had been an assistant principal and then became Bonham Middle School principal, will be back as principal.

With the pandemic and the economic downturn, Bleisch said he wants to have a couple of teachers offer social-emotional support for students and parents.

Bleisch said Ector got a letter from Gov. Greg Abbott’s office saying it needed to prepare for significant budget cuts this year.

Schools also are partly funded on average daily attendance and attendance dropped last year by at least 80 students. This past year, student enrollment dropped by at least 80 students. Bleisch said this means a reduction of $600,000 to $850,000 in state funding.

Bleisch said he is expecting about 1,330 students this fall, compared to a high of about 1,500 in previous years.

Bleisch said adjustments also were made to the master schedule.

“Our data showed that our students needed more support in English, ESL (English as a second language), and math so what we’ve done is adjust a bunch of positions from extra elective classes to more academic support … We’re adjusting some positions because in many cases the teachers that were teaching electives were switched over if we felt that they could do the job and that their credentials allowed for it. But in some cases that wasn’t the case, so where we thought it was appropriate we made those adjustments and where it wasn’t appropriate we didn’t make those adjustments,” Bleisch said.

The decrease in enrollment, Bleisch said, also meant Ector didn’t need as many teachers.

“… A prudent decision is to make those adjustments at the semester. We didn’t make those adjustments at the semester which ended up costing us more money, so we ended up not getting the funding for the students that we had been projected to receive at the beginning of the year,” Bleisch said.

He said he expects the downward trend in student enrollment to continue.

“… This trend was really based not on COVID. That trend was based on the adjustment to the boundaries. We didn’t see a major reduction in student enrollment the first year, which shocked us. We were anticipating a drop in enrollment but we didn’t see that …,” Bleisch said.

The second year was when they saw the enrollment reduction.

He added that in spite of the extended school day, the extra support given to teachers to improve “… we’re still seeing some areas that are concerning.”

“We didn’t see the improvements that we wanted to see in reading across the board. … We’re seeing some improvement, but not to the degree that we want to see so we’re making some adjustments there and we’re providing more support in English. We’re providing more support in certain grade levels. We did better in math, but in other grade levels we didn’t do better in math. So we’re adding more support to the students’ schedules in math and we decided to add an ESL class for every single ESL student, so any student that is on our campus, instead of mainstreaming them all without extra support, we added 38 sections of ESL classes,” Bleisch said.

He said they added this content area to support students because that’s the promise they made to the community.

“The promise we made to the community was that we’re going to give our kids extra support, we’re going to extend the school day, we’re going to continue to have the balanced program. But we’re really going to emphasize literacy and that was the plan we submitted to TEA (Texas Education Agency). … The first year, we made a lot of changes. The second year I didn’t see the growth that we should have seen, so we’re using that data to make adjustments to the master schedule. And the adjustments that we made to the master schedule were to add a lot more support in those areas for students which when you do that that means there’s a reduction in another area. In our case, our school I think had more fine arts and elective classes than any other school in the district because it was a residual of the magnet program that was there …,” Bleisch said.

“When we inherited the school two years ago, we didn’t do away with close classes. We minimized some. We made some adjustments, but we didn’t really do away with a whole lot and it had an overabundance of fine arts classes because of the magnet situation,” he added.

Now plans are to add content classes in core areas and reduce some of the elective classes.

“We’re still keeping them, but we’re trying … to offer a balanced program so that it’s not just heavy in one area. That means that while some of the teachers are capable and able to teach in the core, some are not. So we plugged in I think out of 27 teachers most of them we were able to find a spot for them and we still have not finalized who exactly is and is not able to fit into these adjustments,” Bleisch said.

On Paquette and Quintela, Bleisch said both did a great job. Quintela won the Region 18 Middle Level Principal of the Year for the Texas Association of Secondary School Principals.

“… She did a great job,” he said of Paquette. “She played a huge role in helping the school culture. The same with Quintela he got the Region 18 principal of the year award. That’s a huge honor. And it says a lot about the work he’s done on campus.”

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