• April 12, 2021

More STEM options emerge - Odessa American: ECISD

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More STEM options emerge

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Posted: Wednesday, April 7, 2021 2:55 pm

Ector County ISD and UTPB STEM academy are in discussions about a partnership that would launch in August 2022.

Meanwhile, STEM Superintendent Shannon Davidson has another proposal.

Because the STEM Academy facilities weren’t seen as sustainable, in May 2019, University of Texas Permian Basin President Sandra Woodley formed a task force made up of parents, teachers, staff and students to work with the university and the STEM advisory board.

She has said that the university has had to spend “quite a bit of money” patching up the portable buildings the school is in and she didn’t know how many years the buildings would remain viable because they weren’t meant for long-term use.

During a virtual town hall meeting Tuesday, ECISD Superintendent Scott Muri said the district may resume the path toward a bond issue in 2022 and the University of Texas Permian Basin STEM would be part of that.

UTPB Chief of Staff/Executive Director of Communication Tatum Hubbard said the next step will be a survey with the goal of making some decisions before June. The surveys will be emailed next week and people will have two weeks to respond.

The negotiations would also have to include the UT System.

Through Senate Bill 1882, the contract would be for a minimum of three years and maximum of 10. After the end of the term, they could renegotiate for another term if they want to continue, ECISD Associate Superintendent of Student and Support Services Alicia Syverson said.

Syverson said UTPB STEM would have the authority and autonomy to keep what it’s doing and keep its staff.

STEM Superintendent Shannon Davidson presented another option focusing on blended learning where most things would remain the same. Davidson said they would keep the learning model and all current students would remain STEM students and the school would grow its online population. Davidson added that the employees would stay.

She said there were facility funds available through a Texas Education Agency charter allotment.

Davidson said the end goal is to move out of the portables on campus and into permanent facilities.

During COVID, Davidson said the school has learned to give options to families. On the learning loss brought on by COVID, Davidson said with great teachers they did a great job making up for that lost learning. Davidson said the students are right where they need to be now.

She said the STEM academy is a kindergarten through 12th grade public university charter school established in 2014. This is the first year it has had a senior class.

“We’re excited about that. We started k through six and we have slowly grown up all the way to this first senior class. …,” Davidson said.

The school has about 800 students and 60 employees. The campus serves students in Ector and Midland counties and Greenwood. About 15 percent of the population is dependents of UTPB employees.

“We break each grade level up into three classes with about 22 kids per class,” she said.

The goal is to increase the number of graduates in high-demand industries, Davidson said.

“That’s why we focused on the STEM fields,” she added.

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