For Ector County Independent School District, 2018 was a year of transition and change.
One of its six middle schools became an in-district charter school, a tax ratification election passed allowing the district to raise taxes to fund employee raises, roof repairs, buses and school security.
Additionally, Superintendent Tom Crowe resigned, Jim Nelson was named interim and the board of trustees hired a search firm to seek another school chief.
Meanwhile, ECISD still has eight campuses on improvement required under state accountability standards and the district is facing a shortage of about 400 employees, including 200 teachers.
The eight campuses on IR are Blackshear Elementary Magnet, which is in its fourth year of improvement required; Crockett Middle School, in its first year of IR; Alamo STEAM Academy, West and Burnet elementary schools; Wilson & Young Medal of Honor Middle School; Bowie Middle School; and Bonham Middle School, which is in its third year of IR.
The tax ratification election passed with 61.89 percent in support, or 17,050 votes in support, and 38.11 percent against, or 10,501 votes.
School district tax rates include maintenance and operations and interest and sinking, or debt service. The rate was $1.04 per $100 valuation for maintenance and operations and 11 cents per $100 valuation for debt for a total of $1.146603.
The maintenance and operations rate will rise to $1.279570 and the debt rate will remain the same. The proposition is expected to generate $18 million, including $16.5 million in local revenue, plus $1.5 million in new funds from the state.
For a $170,873 home, the average appraised home value in Ector County, the TRE will cost $11.96 a month.
On a separate item, Ector Middle School became an in-district charter under a partnership between ECISD and a nonprofit, Ector Success Academy Network. Ector Middle School was in its fifth year of improvement required which meant it would face closure or the Texas Education Commissioner would appoint a board of managers over the whole district.
Ector Middle School is now called Ector College Prep Success Academy and its CEO/superintendent is Robert Bleisch. Charles Quintela is the principal.
The school focuses on keeping students coming to school and staying in school by offering incentives, tutoring and interventions. There are grade-level homework centers.
Noel and Zavala elementary were also in their fifth year of IR and were reconfigured. They also got off the improvement required list.
Partnering with Bleisch’s Ector Success Academy Network was a way to stay the state sanctions against the middle school for two years. The partnership between the nonprofit and ECISD could potentially last for 10 years.
In August, the board voted to accept the resignation of Superintendent Tom Crowe, effective Sept. 1. Trustees also voted to hire Nelson, an attorney, former school board member, AVID executive and state commissioner of education, as the interim superintendent.
Board member Carol Gregg said at the time that the district would buy out Crowe’s contract for the rest of the year at $135,000 and start negotiations with Nelson starting Sept. 1.
Nelson was hired for $22,000 a month for nine months. After that, it would be on a month-to-month basis.
Trustees hired the firm of Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates in November to search for a superintendent.
Representatives from HYA laid out the process at a board meeting in November.
The vote to name a lone finalist will likely be in April. Berry said the projected date is April 8, but that could be pushed back to the middle of April. The contract would be approved by the end of April or first day of May and the district would probably want a superintendent to report July 1, he said.
At Odessa College, the school was named among the 10 finalists for the 2019 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.
In April 2019, the $1 million prize will be awarded at an event in Washington, D.C., to the winner, two or three finalists with distinction and a Rising Star that has achieved exceptional levels of improvement, an Aspen Institute news release stated.
Additionally, the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACSCOC) authorized Odessa College to offer the bachelor of arts in applied science (BAAS) degree in automation and the BAAS degree in leadership and management.
With SACSCOC approval, planning and scheduling of the course work and classes for the two new baccalaureate degrees can move forward, a news release said.
The projected start date for classes is spring 2019.
At the University of Texas Permian Basin, President Sandra Woodley had her investiture as president, laid out the university’s values and goals for the next 10 years.
During the ceremony, Woodley said she aimed to double the number of undergraduate degrees awarded; double the amount of research at UTPB; double the endowment; reach operational excellence; a campus transformation; grow the athletic programs; build research institutes; double the number of kindergarten through 12th grade teachers that graduate from UTPB; internships and coops; and fill workforce gaps.
UTPB also modified its name from the University of Texas of the Permian Basin to University of Texas Permian Basin.