DAWNINGS: Churches challenged to step up for schools

By Rev. Dawn Weaks

Pastor, Connection Christian Church

This weekend Ector County Independent School District celebrates a big anniversary. Congratulations to our community!

For one hundred years, ECISD has dedicated itself to the education of Odessa’s children and youth. There are other choices in education in our area, including private schools and charter schools that also do good work. Yet at this century mark I hope our community will remember that only our public schools are charged with the education of ALL children. Only our public schools are required to provide transportation for all kids, to provide special education accommodation for all kids, to have speech therapists for your child’s lisp, mental health counselors for your child in crisis, and programs for gifted and talented kids and dyslexic kids and kids who are both, and even kids who are incarcerated.

Yesterday an elder from our church and I visited the youth incarcerated at the Ector County Youth Center. The kids made thank-you notes for teachers who had blessed their lives. The cards read like this, “Mr. D., thanks for always treating me fair.” “Ms. G., I appreciate you being there for me.” “Mrs. S., you’re the best art teacher ever.” These kids who are up against addiction, family violence, poverty, and mental health issues know who’s in their corner, and it’s public school teachers.

As a Christian pastor, I’m a part of a coalition called Pastors for Texas Children. We try to answer the call of God by serving the children and staff who make up our Texas public school community. That’s because we know that public schools are our community’s best hope for the future of our kids. In honor of ECISD’s 100thanniversary, I want to challenge the churches of our community to support a school in their neighborhood. By my count there are about 165 churches in Odessa and 42 public schools. Imagine if each school had four churches wrapping their arms around it! Many of our churches are already at work doing this. Is yours?

Thank you to our school district for their extraordinary leadership during the pandemic as they provided free meals delivered to families in need, gave computers to kids who had none, and even launched a satellite to get Wi-Fi to kids without it so they could be reached with educational opportunities. Our schools aren’t perfect, but they sure are busting a gut trying. Let’s give them 100 cheers for 100 years and then get to work being there for them for the next century, too.